Random rants (2): ‘Brand Spain’

So, ‘Brand Spain’, when are you going to employ me to help with your international image? Hurry up. Look at today’s news: Iberia is on strike, cancelling 415 flights this week (which will have a knock-on effect disrupting 1,200 other flights), in protest against plans to lay off 19% of its workforce – and riot police have already charged the picket line at Madrid airport.

The embezzlement case against the son-in-law of King Juan Carlos, Iñaki Urdangarin, accused of having siphoned off millions in public money from the governments of Valencia and the Balearics, is also looking bad, very bad … with Urdangarin’s former associate having just released hundreds of emails in an attempt to prove that their activities were as good as approved by the royal household.

The government’s former treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, is under investigation for allegedly having $30m stashed away in a Swiss bank account, from which he is accused of keeping a double accounting system for the party to hide the payments. One document appears to show that Prime Minister Rajoy himself received cash payments totalling $340,000 that had been hidden from tax authorities.

And now there’s a great political espionage story gathering momentum in Barcelona, which involves politicians, judges, lawyers … a ‘conspirational attempt by anti-nationalist forces to undermine the sovereignty drive in Catalonia’. It’s sure to run and run.

Spain is increasingly being seen as one big ‘kickbacks-for-contracts’ nation, infested with cronyism, sleaze and corruption, on the verge of serious social unrest. The International Transparency index (the global coalition against corruption) placed Spain 30th on the table last year, after Cyprus and Botswana – probably because Spain has never been very transparent about its institutions. All I hear about is the UK’s Food Standards Agency fretting about the contents of its country’s food chain, but I still see Findus Lasagnes in the Spanish shops … indeed, no-one has dared mention horsemeat over here yet. Well, horsemeat or not, London, here I come for at least a week … and, hopefully, a laugh.

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