Laid-off worker quizzed after Spain politician shot dead
Spanish police on Tuesday questioned a struggling, laid-off council worker and her mother over the public gunning down of a ruling party politician, a murder that halted campaigning for European elections in the country.
Isabel Carrasco, renowned as a strong character who led the ruling Popular Party in Leon province, was shot repeatedly Monday in what appeared to be an act of personal vengeance as she crossed a footbridge in the university city, police and witnesses said.
Newspapers splashed on their front pages images of her body lying under a white sheet on the bridge, some highlighting concern over growing public hatred of Spanish politicians.
Police arrested the two suspects shortly after Monday's late-afternoon shooting: a 35-year-old woman who lost her temporary job at the Leon council three years ago, and her 55-year-old mother.
The daughter's temporary job with the council had expired when someone else was chosen for the position in 2011, a Leon city hall source told AFP.
But in addition to laying her off, the council then said it had mistakenly overpaid her 12,000 euros ($16,500) and wanted its money back.
"There was a series of legal hearings in the past few years which was finally won by the council," the source said on condition of anonymity.
"This woman had to return the money and it seems that was one of the reasons she had serious financial problems."
- Hunting for firearm -
The two suspects apparently had declined to give a statement to police, who were still hunting for the firearm used in the crime, the source said.
A police official who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP the mother and daughter remained in police custody in Leon.
The two women were both members of the Popular Party and were the wife and daughter of a police inspector, government and party officials said.
Under Spanish law, they can be held for up to 72 hours before appearing before an investigating magistrate.
Spain's ruling Popular Party and the opposition Socialist Party suspended campaigning for the May 25 European elections after the shooting.
A televised debate between candidates of the ruling party and the main opposition Socialist Party was postponed for two days until Thursday.
Mourning relatives wept outside a public building where Carrasco's body lay in state, attended by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other leading politicians.
Rajoy issued a statement after the killing, decrying it as a "wretched crime" and stressing that the authorities were working to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The family of the murdered politician had requested privacy for an evening funeral service, local Popular Party sources said.
The shooting appeared to be a work-related act of revenge, according to officials, but "it occurred in a climate of growing ill-will towards the political class", said an editorial in conservative daily El Mundo.
Many people believed politicians were at the root of all their problems, it said.
"We don't want to say it was the cause of the crime but it must be said that this breeding ground helps to erode the relationship with politicians, who are now seen as enemies."
Numerous Popular Party officials were assassinated in the 1990s and early 2000s in killings blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA, which announced an end to violence in 2011.
- Powerful character -
A lawyer by training, Carrasco was born in the province of Leon and held various provincial and regional posts, according to her biography on Leon city hall's website.
She had led the Leon provincial council since 2007.
The local newspaper Diario de Leon described her as a "powerful character".
"Despite her small size, her very strong character and the way she took the reins of power caused her to be known as the 'super-delegate'," it wrote.
"It was precisely this character and the power she accumulated that earned her numerous political rivals."
Since taking office in 2011 the Popular Party has imposed sharp government spending cuts to rein in the public deficit, sparking street protests in a country with a 26-percent jobless rate.
© 2014 AFP