independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Protesters jeer 'slush-fund' minister

King Juan Carlos of Spain receiving new ambassadors at the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain.

PROTESTERS jeered the former treasurer of Spain's ruling Popular Party yesterday after prosecutors questioned him about documents that allegedly show he once paid slush money to leading party members, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

A handful of people shouted "thief" and "give the money back" at Luis Barcenas as police escorted him to a waiting taxi.

Barcenas was called in for questions after leading newspaper 'El Pais' last week published what it called Mr Barcenas' "secret papers", with alleged copies of records from several years ago showing names and amounts received. The alleged payments were mostly made by construction companies.

Both Mr Barcenas and the Popular Party, which have since broken ties, claim the documents are false and deny any wrongdoing.

Mr Barcenas declined to talk to reporters yesterday.

The scandal, although only one of many in Spain, has particularly angered the public because Rajoy is demanding major sacrifices from Spaniards as the country battles recession and 25pc unemployment.

Speaking in Germany on Monday, Mr Rajoy said the allegations were "completely false" and vowed that his government would not let the scandal distract his reform course.

Opposition leaders have called for him to resign. Police had to cordon off streets around the party's headquarters to prevent protesters getting near.

Meanwhile, Labour unions representing most workers in Spain's Iberia airline have called 15 days of strikes to protest the company's plans to lay off 4,500 workers.

The stoppages by Iberia's ground staff and cabin crews will be held on February 18-22, March 4-8 and March 18-22.

Raul Melero of the USO union said that the strikes were called after weeks of negotiations ended without agreement.

The unions involved called off a week of strikes in December so that the negotiations could continue.

The pilots' union, Sepla, is not among six unions backing the strike.

International Airlines Group, which groups together British Airways and Iberia, late last year unveiled a plan to cut 23pc of the Spanish company's staff, saying the carrier was "in a fight for survival".

Irish Independent

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