As more scandal emerges over a leading politician’s faked university degree, Lenox Napier asks: ‘why do politicians never resign in Spain?’

UNDER PRESSURE: Cristina Cifuentes

SPAIN’S leading political problem is the Catalunya issue, brought about by poor management and policies from Madrid over the years.

Barcelona could have been a partner, but instead, it has become a vassal. As the tension built slowly up, and the threat of a unilateral declaration of independence loomed, Madrid came in swinging. Now several Catalan politicians are in prison, without charge. Others are in exile. They are either rebels, or political prisoners, depending on your point of view, and the subject is not going away and feeds upon itself daily, with Madrid mostly being painted as the baddie.

Last Thursday turned out to be an interesting day for the courts.

The Swiss currently have two Catalan ‘rebels’ that Madrid urgently wants (that’s to say, they are in exile there peacefully enough), while the Spanish have Herve Falciani, the whistleblower who walked out of HSBC in Geneva in 2008 with a long list of those who had improperly stashed their swag in offshore accounts, including many Spanish politicians and captains of industry.

Thanks to Falciani, the Panama Papers became possible, and all kinds of people were caught with their taxes undeclared or their money laundered. Among the most notable was the Botín (Banco Santander) family and their two billion euro stash in the Swiss bank.

Carles Puigdemont

Falciani is wanted in Switzerland for leaking official documents, but the EU treasuries are understandably pleased with him.

How about a deal, one Spanish prosecutor thought, nabbing Falciani off the street in Madrid on Wednesday – just as he was about to give a talk at a university entitled: ‘When telling the truth is a wonderful thing’.

The Swiss – who have Falciani pencilled in for five years behind bars for breaking the Helvetian Eleventh Commandment – didn’t have much chance to weigh the advantages of a possible trade before a judge however, defied the prosecutor for misuse of the law, unlocked the cell and said in effect, ‘scram!’, you’re a free man.

In Spain, politics sometimes trumps justice.

At the same time in Germany, a court decided Carles Puigdemont, the ringleader of the Catalan rebellion, wasn’t a rebel after all, and Puigdemont, who had been arrested on a Spanish judicial order, was politely set free.

Meanwhile in Madrid another leading PP politician was somehow holding on to her chains of office with a vice-like grip.

Cristina Cifuentes took on the key job as president of the Madrid Region two years ago offering a clean sweep after years of problems. “The corrupt era has come to an end,” said Cifuentes as she triumphed into office.

But this has now come to a rather spectacular end, with the news, broken by news site El Diario, that her master’s degree from the King Juan Carlos University was a fake.

She couldn’t have been studying there when she said and the signatures on the document were false.

Other newspapers picked up on the story and provided extra ammunition.

The university finally admitted it ‘reconstructed’ the document after ‘the original was destroyed’, but they have sent all the paperwork to the police and public prosecutor to make up their own mind.

While it all looked very damning, Cifuentes finally came out of hiding for a week, and made a three-hour statement insisting the claims were untrue. But few were convinced and the scandal rumbled on.

While the socialists and Podemos demanded a motion of no confidence, Ciudadanos stuck with the ruling PP government and won by a vote.

Cifuentes, evidently fearing a return to Civvy Street, remained firm. I’m not leaving, she thundered as the PP-controlled Spanish national television conveniently turned its focus onto another subject more in keeping with their own Masters’ viewpoint. That of the pesky Catalans.

On Friday however, all media organisations, even including the PP supporting ABC newspaper, were reporting up to the minute on the case. Would Cifuentes survive the weekend?

We are left with this question – ‘Why in Spain would most politicians rather die than resign?’ The answer might be that, this is all they know.

In other countries, disgraced politicians blithely return to their previous occupation… here, well they often have no previous occupation… Whether presidents, ministers or mayors, many of our leaders are loathe to leave office, as they have no other skills and quite enjoy the perks.

Cifuentes is the perfect example, having been in politics since she was 16.

Politicians in Spain usually attempt to stay on in their post, when they should resign, because they are short on moral qualities.

Politicians probably think that the public are fools – and, judging by the way we pardon their corruption and gross ineptitude, perhaps they have a point.

 

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