Published On: Sat, Feb 2nd, 2013

Political Corruption Protests in Spain

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Protesters and riot police clashed n the streets of Madrid last night, as large impromptu demonstrations erupted across Spain. The protests were sparked by a statement from Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy denying recent media reports that members of his ruling party took under the table payments from wealthy donors.

Prime Minister Rajoy was speaking at an executie committee meeting at his party’s HQ, in which he promised full public disclosure of all funds paid into the personal bank accounts of party members. He also denied any personal involvement, saying that its was ‘false’ that he had ever received or distributed undeclared donations.

By late on Saturday evening large groups of protesters had gathered in several Spanish cities, and police cordoned off several of Madrid’s main roads to prevent a large group of protesters from gathering in a single location, and there were minor clashes between the two groups.

Online Protests Mount over Spanish Corruption Scandal

Written by Elena Arrontes · Translated by Elizabeth from Global Voices

Re-edited by Dean Walsh.

This could turn out to be the most important corruption case in all Spanish history, although the implicated parties have denied all accusations, and claimed to have transparent accounts. They are also still asking the people to “adjust their budgets” due to the current crisis. To regain the citizens’ trust and prove their innocence, members of the party have offered solutions such as an internal audit and sworn income declarations [es], which only serves to increase anger amongst some sections of the public.

Map of the political corruption in Spain. By Corruptódromo. Used under CC BY-SA.

Map of the political corruption in Spain. By Corruptódromo. Used under CC BY-SA.

The scandal has provoked strong reactions, which have led to protests on the streets as well as on the web. Even though Twitter was down because of an overload several times during the day, netizens managed to call a sit-in infront of the Popular Party [es] in Madrid recently. As had already happened before, the police surrounded Génova street where the party headquarters are located. But a large number of citizens still gathered, chanting “Quit Government”, “There it is, Ali Baba’s cave” and “The president is a criminal.”

Since the newspaper El País leaked secret documents [es] which claimed to prove the illegal financing of the PP, social media sites have become the main outlet of the popular outcry. An online petition at Change.org, which is still running, managed to receive 100,000 signatures in 10 hours [es], asking for the resignation of the Spanish government. Also, another initiative called for the Spanish people to publish thousands of comments with envelope drawings (the under-the-table payments were supposedly handed out in envelopes) on the party’s Facebook wall [es]. The party’s communication department was not able to erase them all.

Humorous poster with a message convening a protest. Taken from Periodismo Humano under a CC License.

Humorous poster with a message convening a protest. Taken from Periodismo Humano under a CC License.

The twitter hashtag #lospapelesdebárcenas (Barcena’s papers) became a worldwide trending topic [es], and other related hashtags about the case also proved popular. For example, #pelisconbárcenas (movies with Bárcenas) opened the floor for netizens to use their imagination and humor to comment the news, using movies names in an attempt to highlight the idea that reality exceeds fiction. Hashtag #DondeestaRajoy (where is Rajoy?) emerged as a way to denounce Mariano Rajoy’s (Spain’s President) silence, which is ironic given the public reaction when he did speak yesterday.

The international press has echoed the severity of the situation [es] that Spain is going through, and

Airview of the sit-in infront of the Popular Party headquarters in Madrid. Picture by Periodismo Humano published under CC Licence.

Airview of the sit-in infront of the Popular Party headquarters in Madrid. Picture by Periodismo Humano published under CC Licence.

several netizens have pointed out that the government, and not the protesters, are the ones harming Spain’s image overseas, in reference to an accusation made by the government:

 ‏@LivingInGreenCuando nos manifestamos dañamos la imagen de España. Cuando el partido del gobierno roba no. #lospapelesdeBárcenas ver para creer…

@LivingInGreen: When we protest, we damage the image of Spain. Not when the government’s party steals. #lospapelesdeBárcenas see to believe.

Spanish bloggers also had a say on the scandal. Principia Marsupia published an article with the title “4 modest proposals for a revolution in Spain” [es]. The post makes a call to party members and employees, to citizens with a bank account, and to administration and strategic industry bureaucrats to denounce irregularities and take on the streets to end the financial scandals which have hurt the country so much. It seems that this protest is already taking place, since some mayors and party members have already presented their resignation and have defected the government [es]. The blog post put forward the case as follows:

Algunos seréis de derechas y otros somos de izquierdas. Ojalá eso no cambie nunca: la tensión de ideas y el debate riguroso son los requisitos fundamentales para que una sociedad avance. Pero creo que muchos estaréis de acuerdo en que la putrefacción de nuestro sistema político ha alcanzado su límite y que en este proyecto podemos trabajar juntos.

 

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