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Responsibilities

The sentence delivered this week in Seville ought at least to ensure that the new generation of politicians are aware of their actions and their consequences

Rachel Haynes

Friday, 22 November 2019, 14:57

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Numerous major corruption scandals of one sort or other have come to light in Spain in recent years. They have all followed similar patterns: police raids, shock-horror high-profile arrests and pages and pages of revelations of the many ingenious or downright stupid ways in which public money was looted, mismanaged or simply made to vanish. Then come long investigations, even longer trials, much speculation and nail-biting as the judges deliberate for months... and finally the sentencing, which, in many cases comes as an anti-climax, with short prison sentences that the guilty will never have to serve and damages that will never be paid. Follow that with further months or years of appealing and by the time final sentences come through we've forgotten what it was all about in the first place.

This week, however, after a year of analysing the ERE case and writing a sentence that goes on for 1,821 pages, judges have handed out severe penalties to politicians and officials at the Socialist-run Junta de Andalucía for corruption that went on between 2001 and 2009.

This case differs to others in the past in that the accused did not abuse their access to public funds for their own personal financial gain. None of the politicians involved had bin liners full of cash under mattresses, huge villas in Marbella or Swiss bank accounts. They have received bans on holding public office and lengthy prison sentences for administrating public funds in an unlawful manner. For running a system of uncontrolled subsidies that ate up more than 600 million euros of public funds.

Votes and loyalty from the many thousands who benefited from the handouts appear to have been what the politicians who either dealt with, or turned a blind eye to, the illegal system gained from it.

So how can foreign residents in Andalucía digest this scandal? Some may see it as a mere confirmation of the sweeping "Spanish politicians are all corrupt" statement. Others though, could be encouraged by the idea that the mismanagement of public funds can constitute a criminal offence, be prosecuted and lead to prison sentences.

Abuse of power, from giving contracts to your relatives to embezzling millions of euros, is by no means something Spain has the monopoly on. However foreigners who arrived decades ago and encountered examples of unethical administration learned simply to shrug and say "This is Spain". Some even followed the locals' example and found their own "enchufe" contact to help their affairs along.

The sentence delivered this week in Seville ought at least to ensure that the new generation of politicians, who claim they have nothing to do with their predecessors' practices, are aware of their actions and their consequences. Now they have to prove that administration in Spain is now transparent and clean.

Meanwhile those sentenced this week are preparing their appeals to the Supreme Court. So that's months more of ERE case still ahead of us.

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