By Carlos Alberto Montaner
It is possible that something good comes out of the crimes and punishments in Spain. The unhealthy relationships between what was formerly called the ruling class and the politicians may change permanently.
Let me explain.
The Popular Party (PP) was destroyed by corruption. Very few people believed in their innocence. That’s why Mariano Rajoy lost power. Something similar happened to the Italian Christian Democrats at the beginning of the nineties. The severity of the Spanish judges’ sentences against those responsible for “Operation Gürtel” was devastating. It was the perfect alibi to defeat the PP through a motion of censure in the parliament.
It doesn’t mean that 180 deputies suffered a sudden spasm of honesty. Rather, it was the killer instinct of politicians. They saw an opportunity to go for the right-wing party’s jugular and they seized it. Some did it for ideological reasons against their class enemies. Others did it for identity issues. They saw the PP as the promoters of Spanishism, that supranationalism that drowns the other regional nationalisms.
Many of them belonged to parties that were not free from sin. The liberals of Convergence had to recreate themselves as the Catalan European Democratic Party, PDeCat, because of serious cases of corruption. The communists from Podemos have been accused of receiving money from Iran, the biggest sponsor of Islamist terrorism, and also from Venezuela, a dreadful narco-state that, according to Transparency International, tops the list of corrupt Latin American nations, and that already says a lot.
It is likely that the same will happen to the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) with the ERE cases. Soon the courts will give their sentences and today’s allies will feel again the killer instinct. ERE is the acronym of Employment Regulation File. While the frauds with public money carried out by some unscrupulous members of the PP, or from its environment, were committed basically in Madrid, Valencia and Galicia, the unscrupulous socialists aimed mainly to Andalusia, where they have ruled for many years.
The crimes committed are similar: misappropriation, money laundering, falsification of public documents, influence peddling, bribery (active or passive), and a vast etcetera. That is why the sentences are so severe: each crime carries a penalty. When penalties are added up, these terrifying figures emerge.
What follows are not my reflections, but those of Douglass North, one of the great American thinkers of the twentieth century, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1993.
Along millennia the enterprising courtiers and the political leaders have shared among themselves the most succulent rents to the detriment of the common people. Both groups help one another. They are the “limited access societies.” But, at the end of the 18th century, the American Revolution occurred and, suddenly, some white farmers of British descent were forced to organize an independent State.
Since they had fought the English monarchy and its aristocrats, they proclaimed that all citizens were equal before the law and possessed the same rights and obligations. But they did not do it in a hollow rhetorical way, but because they really believed it. That principle led them to establish a Republic based on meritocracy, the market, the permanent renewal of public servants through the rule of the majority, and the subordination of all to the Constitution. They had created, without intending to, the first “open access society.”
As the experiment gave immediate results, against the criteria of the old European powers, gradually some nations began to copy the American way of behaving, adapting it to their traditions and values. That is the case of the Netherlands, England itself, France, the Scandinavian countries, and even nations outside the West such as Japan or South Korea, for a total of 20 or 30 nations with “open access societies.”
It is likely that Spain will join that leading squad from now on. If so, the shaking has been worth it. Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.