The mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, and the deputy mayor, Begoña Villacís, during the inauguration of the Canalejas Gallery, last December.
The mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, and the deputy mayor, Begoña Villacís, during the inauguration of the Canalejas Gallery, last December.Rodrigo Jimenez (EFE)

It was a quiet Tuesday in the Cibeles Palace. Begoña Villacís and José Luis Martínez-Almeida began their day with two joint acts. Photos, speeches, smiles. A Rare avis on the agenda of the deputy mayor and the mayor of Madrid, who rarely coincide so many times a day. If the morning was calm, the afternoon has opened an unprecedented gap in the third year of the coalition government between the two. Just one year before the elections, another internal crisis. The umpteenth between PP and Citizens. No one doubts that it will not be the last.

Three months after its inception, the internal commission investigating the espionage attempt on President Isabel Díaz Ayuso – denounced by herself last February – has concluded this Tuesday. The opinion has left the popular isolated. Ciudadanos, in an unexpected move, has joined the conclusions of Más Madrid and PSOE. The vote in favor of these resolutions has been devastating for Almeida. Two of his main councilors have been singled out by his own government colleagues: his right-hand man in the Consistory, Borja Carabante, who is mayor of Mobility and Environment, and Álvaro González, friend of the alderman and councilor of Housing. The report mentions that Carabante “exceeded” his functions and that González “failed to comply” with the code of ethics of the Municipal Housing and Land Company (EMVS). Some internal voices of the EMVS believe that in the next few days there could be movements and that González, even, would have his days numbered in the presidency of the EMVS. The final conclusions of this commission will be taken to the next monthly plenary session of the City Council, which is expected to take place at the end of this month.

“Ms. Ayuso has not been spied on. It has not been proven that this order was made with public money, ”said Almeida during his appearance at the commission. The reality, however, is very different. It was Ayuso herself who denounced in an appearance without questions this scandal that has turned the City Council of the capital upside down. “I never thought that the PP leadership could be so cruel,” she accused on February 17. Who started this internal investigation? Was this espionage paid for with public money? Was the family of the Madrid president also investigated?

At least three workers from the City Council, as EL PAÍS has learned, struggled to find definitive proof that the brother of the president of the region, Tomás Díaz Ayuso, had received a bribe of 283,000 euros for a mask contract with the Community. The crisis in the Consistory was of such caliber that it precipitated the resignation of Ángel Carromero, friend of Almeida and general coordinator of the Mayor’s Office. A week later, the internal sinkhole led to the resignation of the president of the Popular Party, Pablo Casado. The biggest political and institutional crisis of the PP in its entire history.

Almeida said that he found out about this scandal in mid-December:

―A trusted person from the PP told me, who also knows Isabel Díaz Ayuso.

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That at no time did he tell his press officer. That he found out, precisely, from the press, when the news reached the media. That later, at the end of 2021, he decided to tell his circle of trust about this political earthquake through a phone call. To the delegate for the Environment and Mobility, Carabante, and to his Councilor for Security and spokesperson for the Consistory, Inmaculada Sanz. For almost a month, the secret was kept in these three municipal pillars of his trust.

The fear of a leak was evident. The mayor contracted coronavirus weeks later, with a strong relapse in January. Hence, no investigations into espionage were initiated. Earlier this year, he said, the circle of trust widened. Álvaro González, councilor for Housing and president of the EMVS, from where these investigations allegedly originated, also found out. Almeida then asked Carabante to go to the EMVS headquarters to speak with him.

On January 11, Carabante appeared at the municipal company. There, by surprise, he brought together the main senior officials and the press officer of EMVS itself. He wanted to investigate President Ayuso in the investigation. According to eyewitness sources consulted by this newspaper, the following conversation took place: “I also know that rumour. They told me at a dinner, “answered one of those present. “This is false,” replied another. After consulting them, he considered the matter settled with the municipal housing company. This is what Almeida has called from the beginning an “internal investigation.” No member of the PP informed his partners and fellow government Citizens of this meeting.

The final conclusions of the commission point directly to these two mayors for exceeding their functions and for breaching the code of ethics. The PP spokesman, José Fernández, has called it a “circus” that Ciudadanos adheres to these conclusions. The final report also fires at Almeida himself, who at first guaranteed that all the PP people who were called to the commission would attend. “This clear and manifest statement does not correspond to reality,” says the letter. “Nor has it been possible to find out who informed the mayor of the espionage attempt,” he continues. And he concludes: “Many obstacles have been placed in order to know the whole truth.”

Citizens: “Bad praxis”

Mayor Mariano Fuentes, from Ciudadanos, said during his appearance that the “absence” of so many people in the commission has meant that it is not clearly clear what could have really happened. “We are certain that unanimity could have been reached if all those people had come, especially if Ayuso had come, who was the one who started [todo]. It has become clear that malpractice was carried out.”

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