"The Mayoress of Spain" Rita Barbera dies

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By Euronews  with REUTERS, BBC, EL PAIS
"The Mayoress of Spain" Rita Barbera dies

Rita Barberá was a political heavyweight in the Spanish Popular Party

Fran Garcia Martin Euronews Spanish service

The prominent Spanish politician Rita Barbera has reportedly died of a heart attack in Madrid.

A senator in Spain’s upper house of Parliament, Barbera has been in the public eye over the last year in connection with an investigation into alleged irregular party financing in the coastal city of Valencia, where she was mayor.

She was the Popular Party mayor of Valencia between 1991 and 2015, and a regional deputy from 1983 to 2015.

Known as “the Boss” and “the mayoress of Spain” by supporters, Barbera was an integral part of Valencian life.

A minute’s silence

A minute’s silence was held to allow members of Spain’s Congress to pay their respects.

Deputes from the left-wing anti-austerity party Podemos left the chamber during the silence.

Tainted by scandal

With her trademark string of pearls, red suits and make-up, Rita Barbera has been an unmistakable figure in Spanish politics since the 1980s.

For many, she was a symbol of the corruption ingrained in the highest levels of the country’s establishment.

In September, Spain’s Supreme Court said it would investigate Barbera for alleged mony laundering offences.

The news came at a bad time for Rajoy’s party, which was attempting to form a national government after two inconclusive general elections.

Barbera denied any wrongdoing but resigned from the party after the court opened the investigation.

However, in a controversial move lambasted by the media, she refused to give up her seat in Spain’s upper house of parliament.

Testified on Monday

On Monday, the 68-year-old testified before Spain’s Supreme Court.

The hearing was in connection with claims of money-laundering by the governing Popular Party during her time as mayor.

She denied any involvement in any suspected illegal financing activity.

Operation Taula

This is focused on the activities of local officials in Valencia, Alicante and Castellon.

24 people have been arrested since January.

All views – from the Euronews Spanish service

Fran Garcia Martin from the Spanish language service at Euronews says:

“Rita Barberá was a political heavyweight in the Spanish Popular Party. She spent 24 years as mayor of the third-biggest city of the country and her name has appeared in connection with big, recent corruption inquiries.”

“Most of her advisors are on trial or in prison for different reasons.”

“Her name appeared in connection with the Noos case involving Iñaqui Urdangarin, the son-in-law of King Juan Carlos.”

“Although she was never convicted, what is now certain is that without her, it will be very difficult for the judges to get to the bottom of all of these corruption cases, as many of them began during her mandate.”

What they are saying

“We are deeply affected. She dedicated her life to Valencia,” – Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

“We are not going to participate in a tribute to a person whose political journey has been scarred by corruption,” – Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias.