Saturday, November 18, 2017

Barceló: If The Boot Were On The Other Foot

Biel Barceló is the vice-president of the Balearic government as well as the tourism minister. He enjoys his position of vice-president because of the political arrangement between his party, Més, and PSOE to act as the government with Podemos lending its support. This position was the consequence of having gained a 13.8% share of the vote in 2015. That's PR for you.

Barceló has been around the block for many years. He was within the Bloc of 2007 to 2011, a grouping of left-wing parties that were part of the government of that period. The Bloc predated Més.

Given the fluctuations of electoral fortune, he has found himself in opposition as well as in government. And as a member of the opposition, he made a virtue of attacking corruption - that of the Partido Popular or others - at every opportunity. In a different life, he would now be leading the charge in demanding his resignation.

The contracts affair, as stated previously, doesn't bear the same hallmarks of the outlandish corruption of the past. No one has actually been found guilty of anything, and whatever guilt there might be, it would perhaps lie with a manipulation of the rules as opposed to outright abuse. Contracts were supposedly divided up into different companies in order to get round the maximum limits of contract value at which point the rules say that they must be open to public competition.

The amounts aren't vast. But the whole affair has more than a whiff of favouritism - that shown to the one-time Més campaign manager, Jaume Garau, a friend of Barceló's. It has principally been the contracts affair that has led the opposition (and Podemos) to call for Barceló's head.

Pilar Carbonell, the now ex-tourism director-general, was a later arrival. But even within Més there will be those who are content to wish her on her way. She was not a member of Més. She was in fact firmly a creature of the business association environment, selected mainly, it seemed, because she had confronted the hoteliers on many an occasion as president of the restaurants' association. She was given the post of director-general because Garau supposedly didn't want it.

Give people positions of political power, then they will either abuse them or they will mutate in some form or another. With Carbonell, she has had to involve herself in the rentals' legislation. As a one-time representative of the restaurant sector, an undoubted beneficiary of holiday rentals, this has been an about-face, one caused by her position. Her dealings with Cursach, whatever they may really have been, need to be considered in terms of her role before she was given a political position. It's not an excuse for her, but Cursach, regardless of the charges he and Tolo Sbert face, was a figure from the same "complementary" sector as Carbonell.

Barceló, not cited by any judge, can take this as reason not to resign. But he was the boss of both Carbonell and Pere Muñoz, who was obliged to fall on his sword at the tourism agency because of the contracts affair. As the most senior and recognisable face in Més, he may not have been directly responsible for contracts awarded by the transparency and culture ministry, but this was a ministry of his doing, of his creation. Més control it.

If the boot were on the other foot, he would be calling for heads to roll. His own. But political power alters the perceptions and the steadfast desire to root out corruption, even at a comparatively minor level. The current opposition are demanding that President Armengol sacks him immediately, if he doesn't resign. Bizarrely, because Armengol was unwell, Barceló chaired yesterday's cabinet meeting. One wonders what they spoke about.

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