How the Spanish oligarchs also influence politics for self-enrichment

by Lorraine Williamson
oligarchs

MADRID – Oligarchs don’t just exist in Russia. However, lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about this powerful group of Russians around Putin who are now suffering under Western sanctions in the hopes that they can influence Putin. 

Also in Spain, there is a group of people with a lot of money whose power reaches the highest echelons of Spanish politics and business. The newspaper El Diario wrote an article about the Spanish oligarchy. This gives a good picture of how the privileged class in Spain regularly disregards a democratic, transparent and fair course of business with self-enrichment as the main goal. 

Preserving the Spanish oligarchy

The article also makes clear how oligarchs and their “slaves” protect each other legally and politically. Thus preserving the Spanish oligarchy. Moreover, here is the translation of the article by journalist Javier Gallego: 

The oligarchy is always there when there is public money to be made and politics is always there to pass it on to them. The Russian oligarchy is always spoken of as if only in that country there existed an economic class that benefits from the political regime, sustains it, and at the same time protects it. But in Spain, we also have our oligarchs. 

Franco brought them together

Many of them made their fortunes from slave labour during the Franco regime and continued to rule the country during democracy. Several listed companies owe their wealth to these millionaires or billionaires. Furthermore, Franco raised them and brought them together. 

Examples include the energy groups Acciona, Iberdrola, and Gas Natural Fenosa and the construction groups OHL (founded by Villar-Mir, ex-minister in the government of Arias Navarro, 1975-1976) and ACS (now led by Florentino Pérez, president of the football club Real Madrid). 

The Spanish oligarchs meet in the stands of the Bernabéu in Madrid, others in the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. “We are 400 people and everyone knows each other,” said Félix Millet, former president of the concert hall in Barcelona. Millet embezzled €23 million here. 

Protectionism 

They are the same people who protected Millet when he was still in office, to cover himself. They are the ones who protect the monarchy and the regime because that is how they protect themselves. Because if one of the pillars within the oligarch system falls, there will be a constitutional process. If the system were to be overhauled from top to bottom as a result, many of their privileges would be jeopardised. That is why, without exception and with the help of journalists paid by them, they have failed all attempts to reform this country. 

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Pass the ball to each other 

It is the same oligarchs who then invite former presidents Aznar or Gonzáles to their boards of directors. After all, that investment would pay for itself. It is they who control the banks, construction companies, and the media. It is an economic elite that, thanks to its marriage to politics, manages to extract government funds. Furthermore, they rarely fall into the hands of the justice system, they never pay, but they are always paid. 

Hierarchy 

It is comparable to the caste system. The 400 or so oligarchs are in charge of 4,000 parasites of lower quality, but no less greedy. Each oligarch has thus surrounded himself with his little oligarchy, made up of aristocrats, upstarts, know-it-alls, friends of friends, and family. 

The caste-system 

Madrid, which you could think of as Spain in miniature, has the highest concentration of ‘pickpockets’ per square metre. The Madrid Popular Party has turned the city and community into a middle-caste, lower-caste, and retired caste recruitment agency. Esperanza Aguirre, the region’s former president, turned Madrid into a warm bath in which she and her fellow oligarchs could snuggle together, just like during the Franco regime. Her successors José Luiz Martínez Almeida and Isabel Díaz Ayuso continue this tradition apparently undisturbed. 

Spanish oligarchy in practice 

An investigation is currently underway into a face mask deal made with the municipality of Madrid. A cousin of Mayor Almeida, Duke Luis Medina Abascal, is said to have brought two businessmen into contact with the municipality. These two, without any knowledge of or connection to the medical world, made a deal with the municipality for the supply of face masks. The municipality paid them €5 million for this, of which they, in turn, transferred 1€ million to Abascal. 

A similar story plays out around the house President of the Madrid Region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso. Her brother is also said to have made a deal with the municipality for the supply of mouth caps. 

Crisis for the one, opportunity for the oligarch 

It’s proof once again that oligarchs don’t need to know anything about anything. It is enough to be family or acquaintance of someone in the right place or to have the right contacts. A phone call, a dinner, or a conversation in the Skybox is enough. And what is a crisis for others is an opportunity for them. The law rarely overtakes them, partly because it is too slow but mainly because it is simply on their side. 

See also: Spain is a flawed democracy according to The Economist 

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