Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Nasty Smell Of Power

Let's not beat about the bush. There's no sympathy for Mallorca's politicians who, one by one, have been sent or are being sent to a prison cell. For so long they didn't go inside. Now they are going. Nadal, Buils, Munar. Enjoy your summer vacations.

No sympathy but a nasty smell. There is one name missing from the register of inmates. Jaume Matas. Ex-president of the Balearics. He can enjoy the rest of the summer at liberty. And he can thank the Balearics High Court for allowing him to put his feet up on a sun lounger rather than having to take a holiday in the company of two former tourism ministers.

Matas had been sentenced to a total of six years for various misdemeanours related to that part of the "caso Palma Arena" which had to do with irregular payments involving the journalist Antonio Alemany. The High Court has reduced this sentence to nine months. It has confirmed Matas's guilt on one count of corruption but has quashed the other charges. A nine-month sentence for a first offence means he will not go to prison; a two-year sentence is normally the tariff required to trigger actual incarceration.

The nasty smell emanates from the fact that, whereas Matas has had a significant reduction in his sentence, others, in a different case, have not been so lucky. Miguel Nadal, one of the former tourism ministers, has copped for four years. Francesc Buils, the other former tourism minister, has received three years. Both these sentences relate to the "caso Voltor", one that centred on irregular payments through the tourism ministry. Nadal and Buils will, by the time you read this, either be inside or be packing a bag and getting ready to go away for a stretch.

Maria Antònia Munar, the former president of the Council of Mallorca, has been sent to prison. She has managed to thus far rack up a total of eleven and a half years for different offences. The court in Palma, not the High Court, agreed that she should enter prison. Her case will doubtless go to the High Court, the one that has spared Matas but has condemned Nadal.

Munar, powerful woman though she once was, may not find the High Court to be as  lenient as it has been with Matas. One very big difference between, on the one hand, Jaume Matas, and on the other, Munar, Nadal and Buils, is that Matas was a Partido Popular politician; Munar, Nadal and Buils were all with the disgraced, now defunct Unió Mallorquina. And it is this difference that really causes the smell plus the fact, where Nadal and Buils are concerned, that they were comparatively unimportant and lesser political figures. They have been dispensable, and their dispensability owes at least something to their weakness; they, especially Nadal, just seemed to do what they had to do or what they were told to do.

There can be no sympathy and there is no sympathy for Nadal and Buils, but the shock that has greeted the reduction in Matas's sentence has been compounded by the treatment of these other politicians. They were different cases, but there is a real feeling of one rule for the powerful and one rule for the less powerful; for the dispensable.

Matas, prior to his reprieve, had spoken of the messages of support he had been receiving from former colleagues within the PP. He was at pains to point out that they were just friendly gestures, but the mere fact of them having been made has raised suspicions. Not for the first time, a leading politician, rather than a more lowly one, has been spared a spell in prison. And these leading politicians typically come from the ranks of the PP, though not exclusively; a case against the former PSOE minister, José Blanco, for trafficking influence, was recently archived by the High Court in Madrid.

Matas isn't completely out of the woods as he is implicated in other cases, but it has been put to me that he will end up avoiding prison. The sentence reduction reinforces a perception that the courts ultimately bow to pressure. Matas was not just a former Balearics president, he was also environment minister from 2000 to 2003 in the Aznar national government. 

But what of Munar? Not a member of the PP, will she prove to be dispensable? What has come out over the years since both she and Matas were first faced with serious charges is that both of them ran their parties in all-powerful ways. But while Matas might still be able to cling to some former power, what is there for Maria Munar to cling to?

Any comments to please.

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