Spanish PM to speak up over slush fund scandal

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday said he would appear in the country's parliament on August 1st to answer questions about the scandal involving alleged illegal funding of his ruling Popular Party (PP).

Spanish PM to speak up over slush fund scandal
Spanish leader Mariano Rajoy will give his "version" of events in relation to the slush fund scandal rocking the PP. Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP

Rajoy initially announced he would appear in the parliament during a press conference on Monday.

The Spanish leader said he would appear to give his "version" of events in relation to the slush fund scandal rocking the PP.

Former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas alleges he operated a second set of books for the Spain's ruling PP party over many years.

Bárcenas — current being held in custody without bail for his alleged involvement in another corruption scandal — testified in court last Monday that Rajoy received €25,000 ($33,000) in cash in 2010. 

Rajoy has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly rejected calls for him to step down over the slush fund scandal.

And despite opposition parties — led by Spain's main opposition socialist PSOE party — calling for the Spanish PM to appear in parliament to explain the alleged illegal funding scandal, Rajoy had until today kept silent on the issue.

Now, however, Rajoy has said he will indeed appear in parliament, on August 1st at 9am.

On Sunday  a poll published in the El Mundo daily, showed 89.1 percent of people surveyed thought Mariano Rajoy should answer allegations that he accepted secret payments from the PP.

Only 2.4 percent of poll respondents didn't think Rajoy needed to offer up that explanation.

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Catalan leader accuses Spain of ‘worst attack’ since Franco

Catalonia's leader accused Madrid on Saturday of waging the "worst attack" on his region since dictator Francisco Franco after the central government took drastic measures to stop it from breaking away.

Catalan leader accuses Spain of 'worst attack' since Franco
Pro-independence demonstrators in Barcelona on October 21st 2017. Photo: AFP

In a televised announcement, Carles Puigdemont said Madrid was failing to respect the rule of law after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced he would move to dismiss Catalonia's separatist executive, take control of regional ministries and call elections. The premier said he had no other choice faced with the threat to national unity.

Puigdemont said the measures were “incompatible with a democratic attitude and do not respect the rule of law,” calling on the regional parliament to meet over the crisis.

He accused the Spanish government, which still has to get approval from the Senate to implement the measures, of waging “the worst attack on institutions and Catalan people since the decrees of military dictator Francisco Franco abolishing the Catalan government”.

Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist from 1939 to his death in 1975, and among other repressive measures took Catalonia's powers away and officially banned the Catalan language.

Cautious, though, Puigdemont did not once say the word “independence” as Spain and the rest of the EU waits to see if he declares a unilateral break from Spain after the region held a banned independence referendum on October 1st.

Carles Puigdemont. Photo: AFP

Puigdemont delivered most of his short speech in Catalan, but also switched to Spanish and English.

In Spanish, he accused Madrid of “attacking democracy”.

And in English, he said European values were at risk.

“Democratically deciding the future of a nation is not a crime,” he said.

Led by Puigdemont, 450,000 supporters of independence protested in Barcelona on Saturday, shouting “freedom” and “independence” after Madrid announced drastic measures to stop the region from breaking away.

“It's time to declare independence,” said Jordi Balta, a 28-year-old stationery shop employee, adding there was no longer any room for dialogue.

The protest in the centre of the Catalan capital had initially been called to push for the release of the leaders of two hugely influential grassroots independence organisations, accused of sedition and jailed pending further investigation.

But it took on an even angrier tone after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced his government would move to dismiss the region's separatist government, take control of its ministries and call fresh elections in Catalonia.

Municipal police said 450,000 people rallied on Barcelona's large Paseo de Gracia boulevard, spilling over on to nearby streets, many holding Catalonia's yellow, red and blue Estelada separatist flag.

READ ALSO: Spain to dismiss Catalonia's government, call elections