Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Route Of All Corruption

Maria Dolores Cospedal is the national general secretary of the Partido Popular. Last week she took a pop at tourism policies and attitudes of the Balearic government, in which there is no Partido Popular participation. It, she said, had declared tourism public enemy number one. Tourism minister Barceló responded angrily. Irresponsible. Outrage. He insisted that she retract her statement. She didn't.

Cospedal, though even-handed in levelling her accusation at both governing parties (PSOE and Barceló's Més) as well as its parliamentary supporter, Podemos, would probably have had Més and Podemos more in mind than PSOE. These two parties, now united with the United Left in having formed an electoral pact for the 26 June election, are perhaps perceived as being somewhat less than wholeheartedly supportive of tourism. The perception, however, is more applicable to Podemos than Més. Barceló and his party may want change that brings about greater distribution of the wealth that tourism generates, but they are not agitators in the way that Podemos is in respect of, for instance, the hoteliers.

Anyway, this is something of the context for what might appear to fly in the face of what Cospedal had to say. Més, Podemos and their United Left allies were the other day promoting a tourism "route", one in Palma and one also that probably wouldn't have curried favour with Ms. Cospedal.

They like a route in Mallorca. There are routes for walking, for wine, for tapas. You name it, there is a route for it, and it is one designed with tourists in mind, though in the case of the particular route that was being promoted one would doubt if it has attracted too many of the new supply of high purchasing-power northern Europeans currently boosting Palma's boutique hotels to record levels of occupancy.

Since March there has been a route in Palma known as the "Via Corrupta". It was the idea of two journalists and an actor, and it has the backing of the Balearic journalists union. Each Saturday thirty people can embark upon this route. It starts at 10am by the former headquarters of the defunct (brought down by its corruption) Unió Mallorquina (UM) party and ends by the courts in Via Alemania. The route that was taken last Saturday attracted some notable politicians. Més, Podemos, the United Left as well as one PSOE representative and the Congress candidate for the Soberania per a les Illes (sovereignty for the islands) grouping all took part.

One trusts that each of these participants paid the twelve euros fee for the two-and-a-half-hour trek: there shouldn't be any suggestion of favouritism when it comes to a corruption route. They would have passed by, among other places, the headquarters of the PP and PSOE as well as the "palacete" of ex-president Jaume Matas. This is now his ex-palacete, it having been sold to a Frenchman for 2.5 million euros, 865,000 of which (corresponding to what Matas paid for it in 2004) have been deposited with the court as a means of getting Matas a reduction in the sentence that has been called for at the Nóos trial.

The politicians of the left taking part on Saturday clearly had an aim in mind: publicising corruption as a factor in the election. Though Podemos and its allies show no sign of losing support - polls for the Balearics and nationally suggest gains rather than losses - one wonders if corruption is as significant an issue with the electorate as it was. Voters may be more enticed with promises of better employment prospects and of a more equitable society, while in Mallorca there haven't been any major scandals for quite some time. The cases in the courts and under investigation relate to times past and to the days of Matas and of the UM. The recent focus on corruption has been more on the local police scandals, though these might yet find some PP figures being cited.

It doesn't harm, though, to keep corruption firmly on the boil as an election issue, which is therefore what happened on Saturday. The route, let's be blunt, isn't really about tourism, and even if it were, one would question if it would have much of an uptake. This said, there is a branch of tourism which falls under the general umbrella description of dark tourism, of which Civil War routes are an aspect (one wouldn't rule out there being one in Mallorca, given that the law on exhumations has been approved). Corruption might be said to fall within this category, but it is an abstract concept as opposed to a physical one. Hence, in order to give it tangibility, buildings become the attractions on Palma's corruption route. In tourism terms, it is more of a cultural route, and that is exactly what it is. Corruption as part of culture, now to be eradicated. Ms. Cospedal might take note.

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