Yes We Can – Take Bribes

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Here’s another bit of news that I am surprised has not been reported more – or maybe it’s just that it has only been reported in Spanish and not yet crossed the language barrier.

The headline is fairly straightforward: “The DEA of the US reveals that Venezuela and Iran agreed to finance Podemos through Hispan TV.” “US,” “Venezuela” and “Iran” should be no problem; “DEA” is the Drug Enforcement Administration of the US federal government; “Hispan TV” is a worldwide Spanish-language TV station operated by the public television authority of the Islamic Republic of Iran; and Podemos (SP: “[Yes] We can”) – here we come to the point of all this – is a new, insurgent, left-wing, anti-austerity Spanish political party which did fairly well in the pre-Christmas Spain nationwide elections. (It’s not in government yet, though; no party is yet in government. The old government is still there as caretaker because, unfortunately, several other parties also did well in those elections.)

This is not good news for Podemos. Accepting political contributions from foreign sources, at best, puts any political party in bad odor. At worst, it is illegal; and that is the case in Spain (emphases in the original):

The Law for Party Financing of 2007 prohibited receiving funds from foreign governments but did not impose sanctions on those who evaded this restriction. Nonetheless, last 1 July a reform of the Penal Code came into force which prescribed up to four years’ jail and fines of up to five times the amount of the donation received by formations gaining more than 100,000 euros from another country . . .

Podemos is alleged to have received €5 million from Iranian sources, and undisclosed other amounts from the Venezuelan government. Further, Pablo Iglesias, Podemos‘ leader, is alleged to have received personal payments of between €2,000 and €3,000 numerous times. Again, Hispan TV was used as the main vehicle to move these monies and make things look legal, through inflated invoices and the like. All this is coming to light now – allegedly – because a Venezuelan government insider with knowledge about what has been going on has started talking to the DEA.

The affinity between Podemos and the Venezuelan government is easy to see: both are left-wing. But neither are Muslim; indeed, there has not been a strong Muslim political presence in Spain sine 1492. So why would Iran want to buy influence in an up-and-coming force in Spanish politics this way? For that matter, what is the Iranian government doing in the first place splashing out the cash for a television network to push it views throughout the Spanish-speaking world?

And, really, why haven’t we all heard a lot more about this? Could it be just a journalistic hack-job from a media outlet, El Confidencial, that is hostile to Podemos‘ politics. I have to confess that I really do not know; for what it is worth, El Confidencial seems quite a newcomer to the Spanish media scene, and I’m not even sure whether it has or ever had a paper/sold-on-the-streets version.

Still, as hinted above, the Spanish political situation remain in limbo after that December 20 election because, for the first time, no party won a majority enabling it to govern alone. The parties which did well (including Podemos) have been thrust into the very unfamiliar task of forming a coalition government, something that has never been required before in post-Franco Spain. They are not doing well at it so far; and if it turns out that they can’t work things out, then there would have to be new elections. That is when these allegations – if true – would start to really bite for Podemos.

UPDATE: Here we are in March, 2016 – there still is no new Spanish government yet – and there comes this report that this Podemos case has been brought before the Spanish Tribunal de Cuentas or Court of Accounts:

The facts at issue are pretty much as described in the initial blog-post (above): “the alleged illegal financing of Podemos via Iran’s television station in Spain,” although in this piece there is no mention of Venezuela. So on the one hand this would seem to lend credibility to the accusation; on the other hand, this is once again a report from that same source, El Confidencial.

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