Madrid conservatives rally round regional chief amid party quarrel

Madrid, Feb 20 (EFE).- Thousands of protesters gathered outside the headquarters of Spain’s Popular Party in Madrid on Sunday in a show of support for the capital’s regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso and to call on the conservative party leader Pablo Casado to step down.

Díaz Ayuso and Casado have in recent days been involved in a public rift that has sent jitters through the PP.

The row erupted after the PP’s leadership called for a probe into claims that Díaz Ayuso’s brother benefited financially from a facemask contract the Madrid regional government directly awarded to a company at the beginning of the pandemic.

The PP sought to lay the quarrel to rest with a meeting between the two this weekend, after which the probe was dropped. So far, so fruitless.

Thousands of people packed the streets outside the PP’s nerve-center in central Madrid and hurled chants of “Ayuso, president!” and “Casado, failure!” (which rhymes in Spanish).

Díaz Ayuso, a rising star in the PP and widely tipped to be its leader in the future, last week slammed her own party leadership for what she described as a smear campaign. She accused PP officials of approaching private detectives to “spy” on her, something Casado denied.

The original investigation into Díaz Ayuso sought to cast light on her government’s deal to secure PPE from China via a Spanish company in a contract worth 1.5 million euros (roughly $1.7 million).

The regional president acknowledged that her brother received a payment of 55,580 euros for securing the delivery of masks from China to Madrid, but insisted it was legal. Casado had talked of a sum worth 286,000 euros.

Opposition parties have filed a case with anti-corruption prosecutors, who will rule on the legality of the contracts in question, which were handed out at a time when emergency measures were enforced to streamline deals.EFE


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