December 13, 2008


Yesterday Jesús was fuming in class - again.

Spread out in front of him was a clutch of local newspapers on which his gaze was riveted. We’d come prepared to talk about the pros and cons of the mass media in general but Jesús seemingly only had eyes for the print media.

What especially incensed him, he explained eventually, was the news item on page one of all the papers depicting the release from prison on €150,000 bail of the smiling former Estepona mayor, Antonio Barrientos, and three other suspects in the so-called Astapa property corruption case.

It was then we remembered that it was in Estepona that Jesús, himself, was the victim of an off-plan property swindle with no apartment to show for all his early-stage payments.

"Just read what he - Antonio Barrientos - says to reporters when he’s released," fumed Jesús pointing to all the lead articles. "Let’s discuss this in class today - it’s far more relevant and topical."

None of us could disagree with that as we each grabbed a paper and started reading Barrientos's inspirational thoughts.

"This is an emotional moment for me. Men can’t be men if they are not free. I have a feeling of inner peace and a clear conscience, which is my greatest asset. I have always worked in the interests of the town as mayor and I hope that the case against me will be cleared up once and for all."

Barrientos, Jesús reminded us, had been in prison for six months and is accused of bribery, money laundering and misappropriation of public funds in the Astapa scandal uncovered in June. The investigating judge Isabel Conejo considered him to be the brains behind the corruption at the Town Hall, which involved "obtaining funds from businesspeople and developers to finance both public and private projects".

It was Barrientos’s final words to reporters, however, that stuck in Jesús’s throat. "A lot of decent, honest people have been implicated unfairly", the former mayor commented.

"Yes, and I’m one of them…" responded Jesús.

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