Spain: Corruption – and resistance

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

As we go to press, the ‘men in black’ are visiting Spain to have a close look at the country’s finances. Troika supervisors from the European Commission, the EU Central Bank and the IMF are likely to force Spain into the third phase of their plan for a general bailout. Last year the conservative government of Mariano Rajoy received €41bn to reorganise the financial sector. The troika could now impose a further loan of up to €60bn, raising debt levels and therefore requiring increased cuts, deepening poverty and accelerating the rate of social exclusion. Such an action would demonstrate the troika’s contempt for Spain’s economic sovereignty; it would be de facto an undercover intervention in the country such as we have already seen in Cyprus and Greece. JUANJO RIVAS reports from Madrid.

Since the beginning of the crisis, both social democratic and conservative politicians have systematically complied with all demands from the European authorities, implementing an austerity plan based on privatising public services, mass redundancies in health care and education, and radical cuts in clinics, benefits and social programmes for disabled people. Hundreds of families continue to be evicted every day. This year alone, 20 people have committed suicide because of economic deprivation or being left homeless. Unemployment is expected to rise this year to 28%; 2.1 million people have no income at all and 300,000 pensioners are sustaining their entire family from their pension alone. Rather than offering jobs to the long-term unemployed whose benefits have now expired, the state has ordered job centres to save money on benefits by giving jobs to those who are still receiving them. Teachers and doctors in state-run schools and hospitals are being pushed into early retirement without replacements.

Ongoing corruption

Pushed to confront the high rate of tax fraud, the conservative cabinet announced an amnesty for those who declare their hidden fortunes, to be taxed at a modest 10%. In reality, this is an amnesty for historic tax fraud and money laundering, and many conservative politicians have secret bank accounts in Switzerland. Dozens of them have received envelopes of illegal cash bonuses from party treasurers, who are now facing trial. On 20 May, the President of the Senate admitted in court to receiving €4,200 a month for four years in undeclared bonuses. Other statements point to a widespread practice of secret donations in exchange for political favours.

The first banker to be detained was Miguel Blesa. He had been appointed president of Caja Madrid when former president Aznar came into office in 1996. Caja Madrid became Bankia, a speculative entity which has ruined thousands of families. Aznar’s ties to the Cuban mafia in Miami encouraged Blesa to approach his dangerous friends. Caja Madrid lent €1bn to organisations linked to the right-wing Cuba America National Foundation. The judge ordered Blesa’s detention, setting his bail at €2.5m, a sum Blesa found within three day.

Resistance and repression

Social movements and a range of organisations continue to set up pickets, occupy bank offices and carry out street performances to expose the corrupt Spanish ruling class. Health care workers and hospital staff have been struggling for five months against outsourcing and the privatisation of management in six hospitals in Madrid. On May Day, there were marches in 80 towns across the country. Many of them involved ‘alternative’ protests expressing popular disaffection with the two main unions and their ‘social pact’ with the government. The government is planning an education law that will make it possible to exclude 16-year-old students with low marks, ban teaching in Basque or Catalan, and upgrade the status of Religious Studies.

In response the whole academic community, students, teachers and parents, called for a general education strike on 9 May. Two days before the strike, riot police raided the office of a student association and arrested two people, claiming to have found some Molotov cocktails. This was clearly a propaganda set-up. Striking teachers had €120 deducted from their wages, but even so, large demonstrations took to the streets in a strike that involved nursery, primary, secondary and university levels.

The government is also planning reactionary changes to the abortion law, ruling out foetal deformation as grounds for a termination. Once again, Rajoy’s party is exposing its links with the Catholic church. On 16 May, there were protests in several major cities. In Madrid around 300 people, mostly women, blocked the road outside the head office of the conservative People’s Party. Two were arrested when they then marched towards the residence of the Minister of Justice. Activists have intensified ‘escrache’ actions, pickets that confront politicians at public events, on the streets and at their front doors. These actions are militant and angry, but peaceful – however authorities have responded with police aggression and disproportionate fines.

On 12 May, the 15M opposition movement celebrated its second anniversary by coming out in force. In Madrid, crowds marched from Plaza del Sol to the surroundings of the royal palace, held a mass assembly and symbolically placed a handmade guillotine in front of it. In Sabadell, Catalonia, a police raid broke into a venue run by several organisations, including a 15M assembly and an anarchist union, and arrested five people charged with ‘belonging to an armed group’. They presented evidence such as T-shirts, sticky tape, kitchen utensils, DIY tools and a leather jacket!

This was used as a pretext to close an anti-capitalist facility in yet another attempt to criminalise the movements of resistance that are growing within our society.


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