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POLITICS

PP regional chief Aguirre resigns as pressure over corruption rises

Civil Guard investigators raided Madrid regional HQ over irregular financing allegations

Esperanza Aguirre speaks to the press on Sunday.
Esperanza Aguirre speaks to the press on Sunday.

The head of the Madrid regional branch of the center-right Popular Party (PP), Esperanza Aguirre, made the surprise announcement on Sunday that she was resigning from her position. The veteran politician, who is also the PP spokesperson in Madrid City Hall, made the move following growing political pressure over alleged irregularities in the party’s funding, which have been revealed as part of an ongoing investigation known as the Púnica case.

“Corruption is killing us,” Aguirre told reporters on Sunday after announcing that she would be stepping down as the party’s regional chief. Her decision came just three days after the Civil Guard carried out a search of the PP’s regional headquarters in central Madrid based on allegations of irregular financing.

“Corruption is killing us,” Aguirre told reporters on Sunday

“We have heard news stories that are of undoubted importance for the PP in Madrid,” she continued. “There is no reason to assume they are true, they have not been proven, but their seriousness has prompted me to present my resignation as president of the PP in Madrid.”

Aguirre had already announced that she would not be standing for reelection as head of the Madrid PP, meaning that within a few months she would have been due to step down anyway. She will be continuing in her role at Madrid City Hall.

During her press conference, Aguirre made reference to her former right-hand man Francisco Granados, who has been held in custody since October 2014 over his alleged involvement in Operation Púnica, a bid-rigging scheme alleged to have been organized throughout Madrid, Valencia, Murcia and León. “We have to take into account that despite the fact that he was fired in 2011, Granados was the secretary general of the PP in Madrid because I put him in that role, and the fact that a judge has kept him in jail for so long makes us thing that he must have done something very serious.”

Aguirre went on to say that the decision to step down was “absolutely and totally personal,”

Aguirre went on to say that until now, she had felt that the accusations against him belonged to another era. “This leads me to assume my political responsibility,” she added. “I should have monitored him more closely.”

Aguirre went on to say that her decision to step down was “absolutely and totally personal,” and that no one in the party had called on her to do so. She explained that she had called the acting prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, to tell him of her decision but that he did not pick up the phone. “I sent him a message and he answered: ‘I understand’.” Afterwards the pair held a phone conversation that was characterized by “understanding and cordiality,” Aguirre explained.

In recent years the PP has been rocked by a series of scandals that has severely damaged the group at the polls and has in part helped the rise of new alternative parties such as Ciudadanos and Podemos, which have placed anti-corruption measures at the center of their programs.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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