Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A windfall turned sour

The company, Vicente Producciones Artísticas, which organises local fiestas in northern Spain, handed out its usual Christmas gifts to mayors in over 300 communities. The package included tickets for the Christmas lottery.

As it happened, the number on the tickets came up as a winner, netting the mayors with a share of 5million euros which meant at least 5,000 euros each. Many would have won larger sums given that they had more tickets. It is rumoured that some mayors may be sitting on as much as 100,000 euros.

The unexpected win has created a dilemma though because the question arises, “who does the money belong to?”. Given that it was the villages that paid for the contracts to the company, many feel that the money should go to help all the citizens out. On the other hand, the gifts were given to the mayors personally so they have every right to keep the money to themselves.

The moral thing to do would be to use the winnings to benefit the whole community and that is exactly what some have already said will happen but then there are some who are greedy. In these small communities, which may only count 50 people, the villagers are afraid to speak out against their mayor for fear of reprisals. If their mayor wants to keep the money, that is what he or she will do – thank you.

You can imagine that this whole issue has caused a lot of controversy. In fact, since there is no law to govern this sort of problem, it has been taken to the public prosecutor who says it would have to go through the courts but there are no funds to take on the case. An association that represents many of the municipalities involved now wants legislation to set out recommendations about how such gifts should be handled – a sort of “guide to good conduct for politicians”.    

This whole business highlights one of the problems that rural Spain faces. Many municipalities are just too small to have a mayor and council making important decisions that affect peoples lives. Those that are in control of small communities have been given so much power and influence,they are now feared as much as they are respected. It is likely that many of them will have held their position for so long that they now regard themselves as being beyond reproach and indeed above the law.  Appealing to their moral conscience may turn out to be a complete waste of time.

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