MP delivers parting shot at 'passive' Gonzalez

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The Independent Online
SPAIN'S anti-drug supremo, the former judge Baltazar Garzon, delivered a stinging attack on the Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, yesterday, accusing him of being 'passive' on corruption. He said he was resigning as an MP and going back to the judiciary.

A year ago, Mr Garzon was Spain's 'superjudge', a handsome 37-year-old who modelled himself on Italy's anti-Mafia magistrates and was a symbol of integrity in a country tainted by corruption.

He was talked into politics by Mr Gonzalez and handed a parliamentary seat on the ruling Socialist Party's list in June's general elections. Mr Garzon, the Prime Minister said, would head a parliamentary commission to investigate corruption cases that were embarrassing the government. It was a clever coup that may have swung Mr Gonzalez's narrow election victory. It also removed a threat since Judge Garzon had come close to knocking on the government's door during previous investigations.

Instead of the anti-corruption job, Mr Garzon was marginalised, given the new post of Anti-Narcotics Co-ordinator within the Interior Ministry, and became increasingly disillusioned as corruption proved to have permeated the ruling party and its appointees to an extent inconceivable a year ago.

Yesterday Mr Garzon accused the Prime Minister of 'a passive attitude' to corruption and hinted that Mr Gonzalez himself would eventually have to carry the can. 'Every person must assume his responsibilities and there will be a time for everyone to do so'.

He said Mr Gonzalez had used him as a 'puppet' to gain time as high-level corruption increasingly threatens the man who has ruled Spain for more than 11 years.

Politically, the recent jailing of the former Central Bank governor Mariano Rubio, the disappearance of the former Guardia Civil chief Luis Roldan, and ministerial resignations may have been more damaging to Mr Gonzalez. Symbolically, however, Mr Garzon's departure and description of Mr Gonzalez as a man 'simply of poses', was a more dramatic blow to the embattled Prime Minister. Fewer and fewer Spaniards believe Mr Gonzalez could have been unaware of the fraud, embezzlement, tax-evasion and illicit self-enrichment at senior level that has emerged recently.

Adding insult to injury for Mr Gonzalez, who approved Mr Roldan in the post, was the publication yesterday in the magazine Interviu of pictures of the missing former Guardia Civil chief, said to have been taken during his tenure. He was shown in his underwear with women wearing only knickers. A white powder lay on a table. 'While the Guardia Civil didn't have petrol for its vehicles, its chief enjoyed the good life,' wrote Interviu.

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(Photograph omitted)