From Málaga to Málagon: Corruption in the Spanish Government

April 5, 2013

Spain is different!

And there’s no better proof than the recent corruption scandals that have hit the government and the monarchy.

Many somewhat-naive expats from the Anglosphere, upon hearing the news of the Swiss bank accounts maintained by the Popular Party or the use of a non-profit organization to take bribes from real estate developers carried out by Princess Cristina and her husband, were heard to say things like…

“Well, now the President will have to step down, of course! That’s what would happen in my country!”

For more information on these specific scandals inolving corruption in the Spanish government, see Las cuentas de Bárcenas or Caso Urdangarin on El País…

If you’re Spanishly-inclined, that is.

And if not, read on!

Corruption in the Spanish government and the culture of “white lies”

Well, we’re not in your country…

Welcome to Spain, where political corruption is par for the course!

A corruption scandal isn’t the end of your career here, it’s just part of the game.

And a politician can spend years denying everything in the face of much compelling evidence, and then happily retire on the cash he’s been stashing away – or be re-elected despite everything!

If you’ve lived here for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that the Spanish don’t put as high a value on honesty as we do in the USA or in England.

corruption in the spanish government and royal family
The Spanish government and Royal Family have been rocked by corruption scandals in recent years.

My first experience with Spanish white lies was when I was giving some in-company classes through an agency.

One day the students asked me if I had heard anything about their former teacher Jimmy. They told me that they had enjoyed their classes with Jimmy very much, but that Jimmy had gone back to England to get married.

“No he hasn’t!” I said. “I see him every day at the agency. He’s as single as anyone I know!”

“Oh… But they told us he was getting married… Hmmm…”

Later, I asked Jimmy why his students thought he had left the country.

“The boss told me to make up some elaborate story about why I couldn’t come to class anymore,” he said. “Really, I was just working too much and wanted to cut my hours.”

Over the next several months at the agency, I found that lies were the boss’ preferred modus operandi. Many cases where the simple truth would have been fine, I was instructed to lie.

Eventually, I got used to it. I started doing it with my girlfriends. “They’re probably lying to me, so why not lie to them?” I thought.

En fin…

Now, almost 10 years later, I’m fairly comfortable with the Spanish way of doing things.

It’s not ideal, but who am I to judge?

Radical honesty (as practiced by many Americans) is probably the best policy in some situations, but if you’re doing business (or hitting the dating scene) in Madrid you might be taken for some sort of tool if you put all your cards on the table up front.

So, will President Rajoy resign?

I doubt it.

Will the King abdicate?



Daniel AKA Mr Choirzo.

P.S… Update: oops. The King abdicated. I guess I was wrong.

Ridding the government of corruption would be good for almost everybody, but I’m not holding my breath.

Where is the light at the end of the Spanish tunnel? Nobody knows.

See also: Spanish housewives turned prostitutes and Scenes from Spanish austerity. You know. For more about that. Or my macro-article Revisiting the Great Recession. Have fun!

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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