The Spanish prime minister’s worthless apology for yet another corruption scandal

On Wednesday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy apologized to the country for yet another corruption case. His words, to say the least were far from convincing, and at this stage it is hard to believe that he or any other politician is really going to do anything to prevent this country from sliding inexorable toward what we might call a corruptocracy. In short, like most people my reaction was: “Don’t make me laugh.”

I have never been a politician, nor am I politically correct. But I do know something about management, which I have written about and taught for a quarter of a century. Watching our prime minister address the Senate, and subsequently reading his tweet, my impression was of a man who no longer, if he ever did, believes in himself or the post he occupies. It would have been laughable had it not been so tragic. Because, lest we forget, this seemingly endless carnival of corruption, of commissions and kickbacks, is being paid for by my taxes. Our taxes. Every day, an invisible hand reaches into our pockets and steals our money. And the biggest thief of all has the brass neck to stand up in the Senate and ask our forgiveness. Great.

Quite simply, it is beyond my understanding how the leader of the country’s ruling party, one which has been hit by scandal after scandal, is able to keep people in positions of power, from local councilors, through to mayors, heads of regional governments, and even ministers, who have been targeted for investigation by the courts, and then tells us he is sorry. But then why not? After all, our prime minister is the man who cut a deal with a company not to do anything to affect its business interests.

This is the same prime minister who has passed legislation to subsidize the country’s leading newspapers with money extracted from an internet tax, so that they will write nice things about him, and that have also agreed to replace their editors in return. This is a prime minister who wants to control the media in the same way that Ben Ali did in Tunisia, or Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

This is the same prime minister who is happy to negotiate with US companies to change the laws of this country in their favor; the same prime minister who when he was in charge of the education and culture ministry had first hand knowledge of the way that the country’s performing rights society set up its own corruption network, and who protected it while it carried out its dirty work.

This is a man who got where he is today not because anybody in his party really believed he was the right man for the job, but because his predecessor arranged his succession. Spain’s political parties could not be less democratic: they are based on a leadership cult, where the grass roots has no say in what goes on, and where the electorate has no idea who their local representatives are, or how they got where they are. Needless to say, they have proved incapable of attracting anybody with any ability or commitment to actually improving the lives of Spaniards, ruthlessly pursuing their own interests and those of their parties.

This is the same prime minister who has refused to pass meaningful transparency laws, and who has overseen a network of corruption in his own party, involving cash payments to senior figures; a man who has cut deals with the opposition so as to place his subordinates in positions of power within the main institutions of the state; a man whose only comment when confronted by case after case of corruption within his party is: “the other guys also do it.”

The problem is that we now suffer from what might be called corruption fatigue, we’re immune to the scandals, we no longer pay any attention; we’re weary unto death, and now believe that there is no alternative, that our democracy is reduced to the level of pantomime. And one of the leading actors in that pantomime, our prime minister, still has the gall to stand up in the Senate and apologize. Don’t make me laugh.

Mariano Rajoy is a hypocrite of the first order, the worst thing that could have happened to this country: he has absolutely no intention of changing anything, because if he did, he would purge his party, ridding it not only of those directly involved in corruption, but of those that have tolerated it for so long. Of course that would mean him committing suicide first.

If Rajoy were sincere about change, after purging the party, he would make sure that its accounts were made available for scrutiny, he make public his ministers’ meetings, who they met, what they talked about. But a man who even refuses to recognize what the courts and the police have established about a nationwide corruption network involving kickbacks for contracts can hardly be expected to set about cleaning the Stygian stables.

If Rajoy were genuinely interested in eradicating corruption, he would strengthen our democracy, not undermine it at every turn; he would work to separate executive power from the institutions of the state, rather than horse trading with the opposition over appointments to the judiciary or the Constitutional Court. He would change Spain’s electoral laws so that people knew who they were voting for; he would try to reestablish links between us and our representatives; he would set up control mechanisms overseen by public bodies able to bring our elected representatives to book. This isn’t about ideology, it’s about methodology. So much needs to be done, and it is so difficult, if not impossible, to imagine that our prime minister, or any other politician, actually taking the task on…

Rajoy apologizes to the nation on Tuesday, he said he understands how we feel, and that he too is sick and tired of these scandals, that he is angry. No, prime minister, we’re angry, and we’ve been angry for a long time now, and we’re getting angrier as more and more evidence emerges of the scale of the wrongdoing in this country. Apologies? Don’t make me laugh; go to hell.

(En español, aquí)