The simmering tensions within Spain’s main opposition conservative Partido Popular has erupted into full blown open warfare between the party´s leader, Pablo Casado and the Madrid regional premier,Isabel Diaz Ayuso.
The trigger was pulled yesterday, Friday 18th February, amid fresh allegations that leading Popular Party figures close to Casado tried to launch a smear campaign against Ayuso with claims that her brother had benefited from a contract with the regional government to supply facemasks.
Díaz Ayuso, whose meteoric political rise was cemented in last year´s regional elections, in which she led the party to a landslide victory, acknowledged that her brother did in fact make a commission for brokering the deal but denied any wrongdoing and counter-claimed that a likely investigation is a smokescreen for a political vendetta.
“I find it demeaning to have to clarify my brother’s business relations with a company due to suspicions based on information that no one explains where it came from,” Díaz Ayuso said in a statement.
She conceded that her brother had received 55,850 euros as brokerage fee for the 1.5 million Euro contact from a company in China for the Madrid regional health ministry.
However, Casado, who as PP’s national president has vowed a zero-tolerance approach to corruption, said that the party believe that “a commission of 286,000 Euros” was in fact the sum paid.
“Beyond being illegal or not, the question is whether it is understandable that on April 1, 2020, when 700 people died (of COVID-19) in Spain, you can sign a deal with your sister and receive 300,000 euros for selling masks,” Casado told Cadena COPE radio.
“I would not allow my brother to charge 300,000 euros for a contract decided in a ministers’ Cabinet meeting,” said Casado, who denied allegations by Díaz Ayuso that the party had secretly contacted private detectives to build “a file” against her.
The party’s “zero-tolerance” approach is in response to the need to shake off a widespread perception that the party has been significantly damaged by corruption scandals in the recent years.
The last Popular Party government, led by Mariano Rayoy, lost a vote of confidence in the Cortes which led to losing power to the present centre-left coalition under Pedro Sanchez.
The last three regional PP premiers have faced criminal investigations on corruptions charges.
Ignacio González was arrested on corruption charges in April 2017 and remains on remand at the Soto del Real prison.
Cristina Cifuentes resigned as premier in 2018 following the release of a video that showed her being detained in a supermarket for shoplifting.
In 2019 Spain´s top court, the Audiencia Nacional charged Cifuentes, González and Esperanza Aguirre with alleged crimes of illicit funding, diversion of public money and document forgery.