News Column

Rajoy Vows to Stay in Power

July 15, 2013

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Monday vowed to govern until the end of his mandate in 2015, indirectly denying corruption allegations while the opposition pressured him to resign.

Rajoy said he had already commented in February on reports that he and other leaders of his People's Party (PP) had received bribes from an alleged slush fund. At the time, he said the accusations against him were false.

"A prime minister cannot be constantly commenting on insinuations, rumours and all kinds of interested information that is being published," Rajoy said at a joint press conference with his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk.

The comments were his first in weeks on a scandal that was engulfing the government as a former PP treasurer told a judge he had handled secret accounting for the party.

Luis Barcenas, who has been in preventive custody since June 27, was questioned shortly before Rajoy spoke to the press on Monday.

The former treasurer had until now denied the existence of a slush fund which allegedly channelled bribes from construction companies to PP leaders from 1991 until 2009.

But during questioning by investigating judge Pablo Ruz, Barcenas admitted to having drafted secret accounting documents, which were published by two newspapers.

Barcenas told Ruz he had handed Rajoy and Dolores de Cospedal envelopes containing 45,000 euros (58,500 dollars) in cash each in 2009 and 2010, according to judicial sources.

Cospedal was already PP secretary-general at the time. Rajoy became prime minister in 2011.

Barcenas also said a lawyer close to Cospedal had offered him 500,000 euros if he denied the existence of parallel accounting.

The corruption scandal prompted the main opposition Socialist Party to launch talks with other parties on a strategy to force Rajoy to resign. The PP has an absolute majority in parliament.

The Socialists said they were not seeking early elections, but only wanted the PP to choose a new prime minister, at a time when the government is trying to pull the country out of a six-year economic crisis.

The PP had lost credibility over the affair after the weekend publication by the daily El Mundo of text messages allegedly exchanged between Rajoy and Barcenas. The messages showed the two stayed in contact for 1.5 months after the slush fund scandal broke in January.

"Luis, nothing is easy, but we do what we can. Courage," Rajoy wrote in one message.

Socialist representative Antonio Hernando said: "It is unacceptable that the Spanish prime minister has harboured a criminal and has been lying over and over again all these months."

The government has not denied that messages had been exchanged but said they did not show Rajoy supporting Barcenas. The messages proved that the state of law "will not submit to blackmail," Rajoy said at the press conference on Monday.

Analysts say Barcenas is trying to blackmail the PP in an attempt to pressure it to shield him from trial by gradually releasing information that could be harmful to the party.

Judicial investigators believe Barcenas earlier amassed 48 million euros in Swiss bank accounts.

The scandal has not affected Spain's borrowing costs, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said. A European Commission spokeswoman said the commission had "no particular comment to internal affairs ongoing in Spain."


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## dpa-Contacts - Reporting by: Sinikka Tarvainen - Editing by: Niels C Sorrells and Joseph Nasr Tel: +49 30 285231472;

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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