Spain's crisis has been building for years, but it burst into the open when the government announced that its banking sector would need a rescue of as much as €100 billion (about $126 billion), revealing an unprecedented economic fragility. While the root causes are macroeconomic, the driving force behind this turn for the worse is the utter mistrust in Spain's leadership after a cascade of misinformation, contradictions, and coverups compounded by gridlock in the EU.
When the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy came to power in December with a landslide victory, he promised transparency and an end to false promises. He delivered harsh economic reforms demanded by Europe; and he insisted that, although Spain was in a recession, it could hold on until its reforms put the economy back on track.
But his government glossed over just how bad things were getting, using euphemisms (referring to the bank rescue as a credit line) and word-mincing that has left the international community – and markets – deeply frustrated.
"Rajoy lies about what's happening. One day he gives one figure, and the next he gives another," says Jorge Martínez, a retired office worker sitting a couple blocks from parliament. "Every day I trust our leaders less, regardless if they come from the right or left."
Now Spaniards are grappling with the fact that the picture of a rising global power which their leaders invoked for years was a mirage, and that Spain may be more like a bigger and more dangerous version of Greece than they thought.