25 Apr, 2024 @ 14:22
1 min read

What is Manos Limpias? The organisation in Spain which accused the prime minister’s wife of ‘influence peddling’

Critics have described the organisation as far-right

DESPITE being officially registered as a trade union, the Manos Limpias group at the centre of the corruption scandal engulfing Spain’s Prime Minister would perhaps be better described as professional provocateurs. 

On Wednesday, the pseudo union filed a legal complaint against Begoña Gomez, accusing the wife of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of ‘influence peddling’ in relation to a government bailout for the airline Air Europa.

The legal challenge led to a shock announcement from Sanchez last night, who announced he would be taking a break from public duties until Monday to ‘stop and reflect’ whether he wants to continue in his role after what he described as a witch hunt and personal smear campaign from the ‘right wing and far-right’.

Manos Limpias – ‘clean hands’ in English – was founded in 1995 as an anti-corruption body tasked with holding civil servants and politicians to account.

Critics often describe the organisation as far-right.

Wife of Spain’s Socialist PM Pedro Sanchez is being investigated for alleged ‘influence peddling’
Manos Limpias have launched legal proceedings against Begona Gomez, Pedro Sanchez’s wife. Credit: Cordon Press

The group was founded by its current president, Miguel Bernard, a former general-secretary and candidate for the fascist Frente Nacional party, Spain’s equivalent of the National Front. 

In 2016, Bernard was arrested on allegations of extortion for which he received four years in prison, although the conviction was absolved by Spain’s Supreme Tribunal this year due to a ‘lack of evidence’. 

The organisation calls itself the ‘first and only trade union to want to achieve the independence of the courts and the truthful and real democratisation of institutions’.

Since its inception three decades ago, Manos Limpias has gained a reputation for launching legal challenges against politicians and public officials.

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Pablo Iglesias is one of a number of political figures to have been targeted by the trade union. Credit: Cordon Press

Most recently, the group launched a complaint against Pedro Sanchez over his highly-controversial amnesty law which granted pardons to convicted Catalan separatists, including Carles Puigdemont, in exchange for support in Congress – the complaint was thrown out by Spain’s Supreme Court. 

Manos Limpias were also responsible for launching legal proceedings against left-wing Podemos over their finances, which were also shelved by the country’s top court, and Catalan President Pere Aragones over his introduction of a language immersion model.

A case surrounding alleged corruption offences by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) remains ongoing, whilst a case against the satirical magazine Mongolia over a cover satirising the nativity scene was recently archived without success.

Ben Pawlowski

Ben joined the Olive Press in January 2024 after a four-month stint teaching English in Paraguay. He loves the adrenaline rush of a breaking news story and the tireless work required to uncover an eye-opening exclusive. He is currently based in Barcelona from where he covers the city, the wider Catalunya region, and the north of Spain. Send tips to [email protected]

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