Gonzalez stands firm as ministers resign

Felipe Gonzalez, immersed in a quagmire of corruption that has plunged Spain into political crisis, yesterday conceded there had been an abuse of trust at high levels of government, but rejected calls for his resignation.

Speaking at a packed press conference after a meeting with King Juan Carlos, which had added fuel to resignation rumours, the Spanish Prime Minister said he considered it his responsibility to stay on, tackle the corruption epidemic and continue fighting the country's worst economic crisis in more than 30 years.

He faced the press after a day described in the media here as 'the blackest in Spain's democratic history'. Wednesday had seen his Agriculture Minister resign, admitting tax evasion, as well as the arrests of the former governor of the Bank of Spain, Mariano Rubio, and a former stock market broker, Manuel de la Concha, on suspicion of fraud and tax evasion. Both men were imprisoned and face up to 20 years' each if convicted.

Interior Minister Antoni Asuncion resigned last weekend after the former Guardia Civil chief Luis Roldan, under investigation for suspected massive self-enrichment at taxpayer's expense, disappeared and threatened to bring down other senior officials with him if he turned himself in.

Mr Roldan said he has been made a scapegoat, and Mr Rubio's wife, the Uruguayan writer Carmen Posadas, said the same of her husband. Although evidence published against both men suggests serious unethical and/or criminal conduct, there is a widespread feeling in Spain that they are 'taking the fall' for a system riddled with corruption, tax evasion, bribes, commissions and what is known here as enchufismo (having and using 'connections').

When Agriculture Minister Vicente Albero resigned, he spoke of having evaded an 'insignificant' amount of tax. Yesterday, prosecutors said the amount was at least 20 million pesetas (around pounds 100,000).

With the ruling Socialist establishment in a state of panic, Mr Gonzalez revealed that two of his closest friends and former ministers, Jose Luis Corcuera and Carlos Solchaga, had resigned from their current posts. Mr Corcuera, a former Interior Minister who was once Mr Roldan's boss, resigned his parliamentary seat. Mr Solchaga, former Minister of Economy and Finance and until now the Socialist Party's parliamentary leader, resigned from the latter post and resigned his seat.

Both Mr Corcuera and Mr Solchaga were said to have accepted political responsibility - Mr Corcuera in the Roldan affair and Mr Solchaga for the Rubio case - although there was no suggestion of criminal involvement by either man.

Mr Gonzalez said he was combining the Ministries of Interior and Justice, to be headed by the man currently in charge of the latter, Juan Alberto Belloch. Luis Atienza, formerly a senior official in the Energy Ministry, was named Agriculture Minister.

Despite the deepening crisis, Mr Gonzalez was defiant. 'The first doubt I want to clear up, because there has been speculation and some opposition forces are demanding my resignation, is that I'm not going to resign. On the contrary, I think my responsibility is to continue at the head of the executive and clear up the cases that have been presented, and any others that could crop up, and continue combating the economic crisis which we are beginning to overcome.'

Pressed by reporters, he admitted: 'I was responsible for trusting people I shouldn't have trusted. To that extent, I feel responsible. . .time has shown we've made mistakes. I've had trouble conceiving that someone would use public office for self-enrichment. There has been a very clear excess of trust.'

Of the possibility of a no- confidence motion, Mr Gonzalez said support had been guaranteed to him by the Catalan leader, Jordi Pujol, whose Catalan nationalists hold the balance of power in parliament.

Mr Pujol ratified his continuing support for Mr Gonzalez yesterday, but the Catalan leader is thought to be pressing for greater concessions towards outright Catalonian autonomy - and many believe his ultimate aim is independence from Spain.

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all