Tue, Oct 24, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Spain begins crackdown on municipal corruption

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Spain's ruling Socialists are to propose a zero-tolerance pact on municipal corruption just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin used a wave of Spanish town hall scandals to rebut accusations that he was not living up to European standards of democracy.

With fresh municipal corruption cases involving all parties emerging almost daily, Socialist party organizer Jose Blanco said that he would seek a cross-party agreement that officials implicated in corruption scandals should be sacked immediately.

Negotiations on a pact were scheduled to start yesterday, according to Spanish media reports.

Sarcastic

Putin's sarcastic anti-Spanish outburst at a dinner on Friday with EU leaders in Lahti, Finland, was accompanied by criticisms of Italy's Mafia problems.

His comments made the front page of Spain's El Pais newspaper on Sunday.

Putin pointed to the southern resort town of Marbella -- where the mayor and former mayor have been jailed and thousands of illegal homes face demolition -- as well as other Spanish corruption cases.

El Pais said Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had been "perplexed" by the comments.

Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi had been left "without words" when Putin pointed out that his country had invented the Mafia concept, the newspaper said.

Scandals

Corruption scandals, some involving housing developments finished years ago, have erupted in Spain in recent weeks.

In the Madrid region alone, one in 12 town halls are embroiled in some kind of construction or corruption scandal, the newspaper Abc reported yesterday.

The Madrid region's planning chief, from the People's Party, and the Socialist mayor of the Madrid suburb of Ciempozuelos have lost their jobs as a result in the past two weeks.

Corruption allegations are even more frequent in areas where foreigners buy second homes.

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