Rita Barberá has been Valencia’s mayor for 18 years and is currently front-page news across the country for all the wrong reasons.
The conservative Partido Popular has governed Valencia for a long time, and perhaps the power has gone to their heads. All year, the PP has been embroiled in the so-called Caso Gürtel — a corruption inquiry headed by the judiciary.
In Valencia, a company called Orange Market has enjoyed years of success, securing nearly all of the government contracts it went after, even when it was the highest bidder. Just raking it in. Its president, Álvaro Peréz, is known as “The Mustache” and could teach a master’s class on How To Look Like a Shady Businessman. Although Francisco Camps (Valencia’s president) and Barberá deny it, evidence suggests he’s been very close to them for a number of years.
Recently, a telephone conversation was recorded where The Mustache bragged about how he’s been giving Ms. Barberá gifts for four years, including a Louis Vuitton handbag. She, of course, denies any wrongdoing and is threatening to take her accusers to court.
It’s hard to imagine something less shocking than the revelation of possible corruption in this city. The question, though, is whether anything will come of it. Someone explained to me that corruption was such an implicit part of the government under Franco that a lot of older folks don’t even bat an eye when it happens in the present day. For that reason, this sort of wrong-doing might not be punished at the polls until a younger, less cynical generation assumes more power.