“Credibility and consistency are not transmitted or inherited, Pedro. You are the one who has to do it, otherwise this is not earned.” José Luis Ábalos (Torrent, 1959) was one of the people who convinced Pedro Sánchez to compete for the general secretary of the PSOE after the coup that ended his leadership for his “no is no” to Mariano Rajoy in 2016. The Valencian deputy, who until then had hardly had any relationship with the socialist leader, was the precursor of the “spirit of Xirivella”, the act that marked the beginning of the reconquest of Ferraz. Today it falls into disgrace without anyone giving an explanation beyond the “wear” and the president’s intention to give a new image to the Executive. Some arguments that do not finish convincing in the socialist ranks.
Sánchez dispenses with his heavyweights in the first major government remodeling
The departure of Ábalos is the one that has had the greatest impact on the game. He has almost left through the back door after Sánchez informed him on Saturday that he was dispensing with his services both in the Ministry of Transport, Urban Agenda and Mobility and in the Organization secretariat. Although he said he would make a decision this week, in Ferraz they took his resignation for granted already this Monday and their powers had been divided.
Affable and a chain smoker, Ábalos was, as provincial secretary of the PSPV in Valencia, one of the main organic supporters that Sánchez had in that bloody battle. “This is what there is,” he told the president today when the act of Xirivella ended, in which the estimates of assistance from militants overflowed. This is how the veteran socialist managed to mobilize Sánchez a month before organizing an act of “intermediate positions” in which he put his face, along with Adriana Lastra and Quico Toscano, to publicly ask him to step forward. Thanks to those gestures, to meetings and even visits to his home, Sánchez was encouraged.
A teacher by profession, although he barely practiced, he came to the PSOE in 1981 from communism. In Valencia he formed a current that has always been essential in all kinds of organic agreements, which has always been able to negotiate profitably. An intimate enemy of Ximo Puig, his rivals recognized that he was a party man when the socialist bases put the establishment shouting “no is no”. He, who had a guaranteed future in a party of organic agreements, opted for Sánchez because he saw a new time. And won.
But those who have negotiated with him know that they can count on him to comply with the agreement until the last minute. Afterwards, you will feel free to play your cards again. Once the fracture had been overcome and as Secretary of the Organization, Ábalos, who had always been a leader of the apparatus, tried to sew the party together and turn the page on that battle. As head of a ministry that makes appointments by dozens, he brought together socialists from different families to heal a wound that Sánchez already considers healed with the incorporation of new profiles from the susanism to the Council of Ministers, among them the head of Science and Innovation, Diana Morant, who is a person close to the Valencian president.
The one who has represented the organic power of the PSOE for four years has been practically alone in his farewell in the all-powerful ministry (previously called ‘de Fomento’). He has vindicated his management in a brief intervention. “Now that I have been collecting, one reviews and realizes the frantic pace with which we have lived. What was not clear to me is the impact of everything we had done. It has been three years: promotion to the Government after the motion of censure, electoral campaigns and a pandemic. Everything has affected the Ministry, “he said in the transfer of portfolios in which he said that he found” an underfunded ministry and an old culture “and that now leaves” a strategic plan of Renfe, one of Adif and unlocked a lot of performances “.
The European funds plan, which was one of the prime ministers to have ready, is one of the achievements that he praises of his administration in which the housing law has been choked by the resounding opposition to putting a limit on prices rent, as required by your minority partner. Despite the good vibes with United We Can, the matter has been stalled for more than a year.
It has not been an easy stage for Ábalos, who has suffered escraches at the door of his house and who has been rebuked in restaurants where he went with his family. Some attacks that began with his controversial meeting at the airport with the vice president of Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez. It was a poorly managed crisis at the beginning, with contradictory versions, but Ábalos went to Barajas to prevent Nicolás Maduro’s number two from stepping on European soil, causing a diplomatic crisis. It was not motu proprio, but received the order.
He was not the only one. Ábalos was one of the leaders of the motion of censure that led Sánchez to Moncloa. Although the outbreak of the process caught him on a plane to Copenhagen, together with Paco Salazar, for an act of the party at the European level, he barely stepped on Danish soil. With the same they returned. In the following days, Ábalos and Cerdán quietly negotiated with other parties, including Basque and Catalan nationalists, that vote that became the first successful vote of no confidence in Spanish democratic history. He defended it on that occasion and also the abstention to which Pablo Iglesias had presented a few months before before Sánchez won the primaries.
After the municipal and regional elections of 2019, he was in charge of speaking with Citizens to try some pacts, but Albert Rivera did not want to know anything about Sánchez and so his interlocutor, José Manuel Villegas, let him know. Together with Lastra and Salvador Illa, he negotiated the investiture of Sánchez in December 2019, but the motion of censure was choked in Murcia. That March 10, he was leaving the Congress in full swing. But have all the Citizens’ deputies signed? The journalists asked him. “Yes,” Ábalos replied that at that time he did not imagine that three defectors would blow up the operation causing a political tsunami that has ended his career in the front line of politics.
Married three times and with five children, Ábalos fought for the ministers to keep the record of deputies – those who had positions in the party leadership did it – and now he intends to keep his seat after saying goodbye to the Organization secretariat in a letter that he has sent to Pedro Sánchez and the rest of the Executive, although the statement has reached the media before the letter to the members of the management. During these four years, his relationship with Sánchez has had ups and downs, but this was not a particularly bad moment. Or at least he thought. The conversation between the president and the one who was his strong man in the Council of Ministers has not transpired and for now Ábalos has silenced himself while many in the party admit that they are still in “shock.”