The trial for the so-called ERE affair1 has started this Wednesday in Seville with something of a low profile, as if someone wants to avoid the largest corruption scandal in Spain having an impact on the Catalan election. Two former presidents of Andalusia, Manuel Chaves and José Antonio Griñán, are facing very significant prison sentences or bans from public office for years.
Between them, they were at the head of the Government of Andalusia for 23 years, and have held other very important roles like being ministers in different Spanish governments under Felipe González and the presidency of their centre-left PSOE party. The public prosecutor has estimated the fraud at almost 750 million euros (£661 million, $886 million). Chaves and Griñán are the quintessence of PSOE for the roles they've held, for how they've carried them out and also for their particular vision for Andalusia: always, better keeping it on a short leash. Something which has not helped it to prosper as well it might have done.
There's a certain reluctance in official Spain to talk about it and a certain consensus that the framework of the accepted debate shouldn't leave the topic of Catalonia. ERE? They're not touching it for now. They shouldn't weaken the pro-union vote for the 21st December election seems to be the idea. And, so, the news got lost low on the front pages of the online versions of the newspapers edited in Madrid. Of course, for neither of the two has any prosecutor asked for preventive detention with or without bail. Chaves and Griñán, whom the prosecution spoke about in strong terms, especially in the case of the latter, in what is considered to be the greatest political corruption plot in the Spanish state, have always been able to enjoy their freedom.
1. An ERE (expediente de regulación de empleo) is a procedure through which a business in economic difficulties can suspend or dismiss workers. In Andalusia, there was a scheme to provide financial support to both the companies and workers affected. The alleged scandal involves funding being given through this scheme to a variety of businesses and individuals who were not eligible for it.