Senator under corruption probe dies of heart attack

Rita Barberá arriving at Spain's Supreme Court on Monday. Photo: Claudio Álvarez / El País
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• Rita Barberá, 68, collapses just two days after Supreme Court testimony
• Former Valencia mayor indicted on corruption related to Partido Popular

Rita Barberá, the conservative Partido Popular (PP) senator and former mayor of Valencia under investigation by Spain’s Supreme Court on corruption charges, died suddenly of a heart attack on Wednesday morning in her hotel room in central Madrid.

Barberá, age 68, had testified on Monday before the Supreme Court on charges related to the Taula corruption scandal that has wracked the conservative party in Valencia, then complained Tuesday of feeling unwell and did not participate in the plenary session of the Senate yesterday. Early Wednesday, she complained of chest pains, collapsed and was attended by paramedics, who were unable to resuscitate her.

The untimely death of the former Valencia mayor deny her critics the possibility of seeing her put on trial over allegations of kickbacks and illegal financing of the Partido Popular in Valencia during her 24-year-tenure as PP mayor of Spain’s third-largest city.

Opposition parties hold that Barberá was awarded the Senate seat by the PP after losing the Valencia mayoralty race in 2015 in order to provide her with immunity from prosecution. In September, Barberá resigned under pressure from the PP when the Supreme Court announced it would hear the charges against her, but she refused to relinquish her Senate seat.

A minute of silence was called in the Congress Wednesday morning to pay tribute to Barberá, but deputies belonging to the Unidos Podemos (United We Can) coalition walked out in protest, saying it was not appropriate to render homage to an individual so closely associated with the political corruption that continues to plague Spain.

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