On October 28th, Operation Punica took effect resulting in the arrest of 51 people, most from the ruling People’s Party.
The operation, focussed on Madrid, Murcia and Valencia, uncovered contracts between local councillors, civil servants, middle men and key companies worth 250 million euros in the last two years alone. In all, the police searched 259 properties, 400 banks, insurers and various companies. As a result, bank accounts and assets have been blocked according to Reuters news agency.
Among those involved are; Francisco Granados, former general secretary of the PP in Madrid; president of the Deputation of Leon, Carlos Martinez; Jesus Norberto, secretary of the Murcia Institute of Tourism; six mayors from the Community of Madrid and the former PSOE mayor of Cartagena, Jose Antonio Alonso.
Following the operation, the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy felt obliged to make a statement about the situation and issued an apology to all Spaniards.
‘I apologise in the name of the PP to all Spaniards for having given positions of responsibility to individuals who were not fit for it,’ he said. ‘I understand and fully share citizens’ indignation. I deeply regret what has happened and understand the weariness of the Spaniards. These issues are particularly hurtful when Spaniards have had to make many sacrifices and efforts to pull the country out of the crisis ,’ he went on and said that operation Púnica was about the ‘personal greed’. In summing up though he cautioned that, ‘this kind of behaviour leads to a generalised suspicion, but one that unfairly tarnishes the image and reputation of most party members.’
Rajoy repeated his commitment to ‘clean up public life’ by introducing anticorruption measures, something he is battling over with the PSOE at the moment. ‘Democracy cannot allow anyone to play with the trust the people place in politicians. That is why we are going to pass two pending anticorruption measures as soon as possible. If we can reach consensus with the opposition, all the better, but if not, we will push ahead with anticorruption measures with the PP’s own votes,’ the Prime Minister said. He wanted Spanish citizens to trust in the process of law because he said that what has happened over recent cases proves that the justice system works.
Sadly, this is likely only the tip of the iceberg that has been uncovered. Corruption has been and continues to be endemic in Spain at all levels from local councils to parliament itself. It will take many more operations like Punica to uncover the full extent of corruption in Spain. Hopefully, the process will continue and those that have benefitted from their greed will be brought to justice eventually.