Spain's PM Mariano Rajoy admits 'mistake' in corruption allegation


MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 01: Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (Popular Party leader) attends a parliament session to speak over allegations on corruption scandals on August 1, 2013 in Madrid, Spain. Rajoy admitted he made a mistake in trusting his former party treasurer Luis Barcenas but denied doing anything wrong himself.


Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy stood in front of parliament on Thursday and said he made "a mistake" in trusting a disgraced former treasurer, but denied any personal wrongdoing with regard to allegations of corruption.

"I made a mistake in maintaining confidence in someone we now know did not deserve it," the 58-year old Spanish leader said.

Former party treasurer Luis Barcenas admitted to writing documents that appear to involve illegal payments to senior members of the Popular Party, including to Rajoy himself.

Barcenas claimed he made numerous cash payments to Rajoy and other senior party members from a "secret slush fund" paid into by big businesses as a reward for lucrative contracts.

Rajoy remained defiant in his testimony to parliament and called the allegations of corruption "lies and manipulations." He said Spaniards should not pass judgement until a judicial investigation into the allegations released its findings.

"Justice will show there was nothing illegal in my own behavior or that of my party," he said.

The corruption allegations first emerged in 2009, but gained traction after documents were published by Spain's El Pais newspaper in January.

Text messages published by conservative newspaper El Mundo on July 14 appear to show friendly words of support between Rajoy and Barcenas some two months after the scandal emerged.

One message, allegedly sent by Rajoy to Barcenas after the scandal broke, reads, "Luis, I understand. Stay strong. I'll call you tomorrow. A hug."

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Rajoy suggested to MPs that the Spanish economy was finally improving, but the focus on the scandal was threatening to damage Spain's image.

The rival Socialist party on Wednesday reiterated its call for Rajoy to step down.

"Our aim is two-fold: that the prime minister tell the truth and that he quit his post," its deputy leader Elena Valenciano told reporters. "If we don't get that tomorrow, we will keep insisting and fighting for it."

The BBC's Guy Hedgecoe in Madrid reported that, despite the calls for his resignation, it's unlikely Rajoy is going anywhere.

"His Popular Party's congressional majority means that for the moment, at least, he should be able to survive this political crisis."