Sunday, July 03, 2016

The Sordid Affairs Of Palma's Police

Machiavellianism refers to the use of cunning and duplicity in politics or affairs of state. It is nowadays an overused word that betrays its specific roots in sixteenth century Italy. It can apply to pretty much any political intrigue, manoeuvering and manipulation.

It is only a hypothesis - let me make that clear - but when José María Rodríguez was forced to resign in July 2012 as the national government delegate to the Balearics, one did wonder at the possible application of the M-word. Rodríguez had been implicated in part of one of the massive corruption investigations - Gürtel - that is even now still rumbling on. The news had leaked out. Rodríguez defended himself in the media, wondering who had been responsible for the leak.

The then PP government of José Ramón Bauzá thus lost one of the party's most senior figures. But was the government really that bothered? This is why one mentions the M-word. It had always seemed as though Rodríguez had been an appointment to satisfy a party faction (mainly his own). It had also seemed odd. Rodríguez, though cleared, featured in the "caso Andratx" from 2006 that was to see the former Andratx mayor, Eugenio Hidalgo, go to prison and which caused the domino effect of investigations into ex-Balearic president, Jaume Matas, and ultimately Princess Cristina.

It was the phone call that Rodríguez made to Hidalgo - he was then the regional interior minister - which had raised suspicions. And it was these that placed a question mark over his appointment: the delegate is responsible for police matters in the Balearics. Was it to be the case that the first opportunity which presented itself would be used to get rid of him? This was an administration - Bauzá's - which made much of its intentions to be "clean" and to not have anyone tainted by corruption. Generally speaking, and he received too little credit in this regard, Bauzá was successful. But there had been that business with the phone call. Put it this way, Rodríguez going probably suited Bauzá.

The resignation did not mean that Rodríguez fell back into the political shadows. Quite the contrary. There he was, moving the pieces to ensure that Mateo Isern's last days as PP mayor of Palma were all but impossible and that Isern did not stand again. Rodríguez is the president of the PP in the city. He once sued over being described as a "capo", a word that refers to a Mafia boss.

The investigation into corruption by local police in Palma has long threatened to name names among senior politicians. It now is. The investigating judge, Juan Manuel Penalva, claims that Rodríguez was the "architect in the shadows". So he was in the shadows but being active. Penalva says that this was the shadowiness of a "criminal organisation". 

Witness statements allege, among other things, that elements of the police were used by Rodríguez to "control the movements" of other politicians, notably Isern. That Rodríguez held regular meetings at a bar owned by one of the police officers implicated in the corruption affair. Those in attendance included officers currently in custody as well as other politicians, such as the former deputy mayor of Palma, Alvaro Gijón. That certain businesses were favoured - the name Cursach has come up in this regard (BCM in Magalluf plus Mega Park in Arenal, among others). A rival business owner has stated that Tolo Cursach himself was the "La Paca" of the night, a reference to the matriarch of one of the most notorious drugs' gangs operating out of Palma's Son Banya.

That there were sexual favours - flatly denied by Rodríguez. One "alternative" club in Arenal is said to have been only open at times for the exclusive use by people in "public office". Mayors, police chiefs and politicians - old ones aged 60 or 70 - are said to have attended this club. They paid for nothing, including the girls.

The reporting of the police corruption scandal and investigation has been one of unremitting sleaze, but there has only been limited reporting, given its mainly secret nature. One should stress that there are as yet only allegations, but the judge seems convinced. If they were to be proven, they would point to a despicable web. The Nóos trial of Princess Cristina, her husband and others has nothing on all this. There may be questions about how the justice system has functioned with regard to Nóos, but various accused, including Matas, have accepted their responsibilities. The justice system is being tested to a far greater degree by the Palma police affair. It has to get it right.

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