The Growing Corruption and Economic Crisis in Spain

28 February, 2013

This is AS IT IS.

Hello, I'm Caty Weaver. On the show today, we talk about the growing corruption and economic crisis in Spain.

And, we hear about some disputed social issues in Turkey and France.

Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated across Spain last Saturday. The protesters said they were growing tired of government spending cuts and reported corruption among top officials. Some observers say the corruption claims could harm Spain's economic recovery. Mario Ritter has more.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais was first to report on the claims. It said the ruling party, Partido Popular, operated a secret program that provided money to party officials like Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The newspaper said its information came from handwritten notes. Partido Popular fought back, questioning where the information came from.

Later, El Pais reported that handwriting experts confirmed that the documents were, in fact, real. And they said there was no evidence of anyone changing them.

There were reports that the party continued until December to make payments to its former treasurer, Luis Barcenas.

This is just the latest example of reported corruption in Spain. Jesus Lizcano is head of Transparency International Spain, a non-government group.

He says the corruption scandals are affecting Spain's image and not helpful in winning foreign investment. But he believes their influence on investors will be limited.

Joe Rundle is president of trading at ETX Capital, a financial business in London.

He says the financial crisis in Europe has not yet ended. Mr. Rundle says investors may pressure the European Central Bank to take steps to end it. But he says any financial rescue plan would have "massive" consequences.

"France isn't really in a position to do the bailout, and it's going to come down to Germany to decide how the Euro Zone is going to be shaped in the coming years."

A financial rescue plan may be what investors would like. But it is not something either Spain or Germany want.

For now, Spain is working on improving its image. The government proposed a transparency bill last year. Prime Minister Rajoy said the bill would increase openness, both in the government and among political parties. Critics have argued the measure is difficult to enforce, but could be a good start.

VOA's Mario Ritter, reporting.

You are listening to AS IT IS, from VOA Learning English.

Women's groups in Turkey are accusing the government of carrying out a systematic campaign to limit abortions. Karen Leggett has more.

Women's rights groups demonstrated in Istanbul earlier this month in support of a right to abortion. Activists claim the Turkish government is using what they are calling back-door methods to ban the operations.

One of the protesters was Pinar. She helped to create the group Women for Women's Human Rights.

"Now we know that all of Turkey's clinics or hospitals which feel politically close to the government or prime minister are refusing to perform abortions."

Both a woman and her doctor can face prison time for an abortion if the operation is performed after the legal limit of ten weeks. Married women still need to have their husband's permission to end a pregnancy.

To let women know what the government is doing, a group called "Abortion is a Right, Choice Belongs to Women" released a video. The government says it is only enforcing laws and rules on abortion. Last month,

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan restated his opposition to abortion. He has said abortions are one reason the country's birth rate is falling.

The government is now considering a new abortion law. No details have been given, but ministers have promised that the operations will not be banned.

Ayse Duzkan is with the group "Abortion is a Right." She says even if the government does not ban abortion, proposed laws could make it almost impossible for women to get one.

"We believe there will be more limitations, legal limitations, for private hospitals where women have more freedom to have access to an abortion. It will be a ban on the public hospitals. There will be some limitations, especially for unmarried women."

Pinar Ilkkaracan worked on a women's development project in southeastern Turkey. She says self-induced abortions are already a problem – one that could get worse if more restrictions are approved. I'm Karen Leggett.

France is expected soon to permit same sex marriage as several other European nations have already. The lower house of the French Parliament has approved a gay marriage proposal on Tuesday. Senate passage is guaranteed by the Socialist

Party, which controls parliament and supports the measure.

However, people in mainly Roman Catholic France are not all in agreement on the issue. Jim Tedder explores the debate in the country.

Frenchman Elie Geffray is in a difficult position in the dispute over same sex marriage. He is a retired Catholic clergyman, who still leads church services and other religious events. As such, he obeys the teachings of a church that opposes same sex unions.

But, Elie Geffray also holds political office and, as such, obeys the laws of the land. He is mayor of Ereac, a farming village in Brittany.

Mayor Geffray says he will marry people of the same sex in civil ceremonies when the measure becomes law. He says he will not officiate, however, at church weddings.

But the mayor also says the time has come to recognize homosexuals --- and that means recognizing their rights. Opinion studies suggest the majority of French agree with him.

In recent weeks, tens of thousands of people have taken part in protests in Paris.

Like 19-year-old Elenore Demacebu.

"I'm here because I think it's very important to defend marriage between a man and a woman. This is absolutely necessary fo children because they need a father and a mother."

Thirty-two year old Phillipe Landais is a factory worker and a neighbor of the mayor. At a drinking place, Mister Landais noted that he holds traditional ideas about marriage.

But he also said he respects his neighbor, Elie Geffray. And he said he expects Ereac will come to accept same sex union.

The owner of the bar, Cecile Gastine, disagrees. She says the rural community is conservative.

"We are in the country and they don't know…they have never met…gay people. In big towns, it's normal to see gay people. Not in (the) country."

For AS IT IS, I'm Jim Tedder.

And that's AS IT IS for today. I'm Caty Weaver.

Join us tomorrow when we visit the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.

And remember, you can get the latest world news on VOA at the beginning of the hour Universal Time.