Ana Pontón (Sarria, Lugo, 1977) will once again be the national spokesperson for the BNG. It was decided last Sunday by 99% of the nationalist militancy present at the 17th National Assembly of the organization. Thus, he endorsed the course of a political leadership that in 2015 took the helm with seven seats and a fourth force in the Galician Parliament and led the Bloc at the head of the opposition to Feijóo with 19 seats. “We do not turn anything, we are where we were, in a project with a vocation to defend Galicia”, explains Pontón about alleged strategic movements. “The next objective is the presidency of the Xunta”, he clarifies, and insists on the purposeful nature of his mandate: “There are those who believe that an alternative can be built in the anti, but I want to build in favor.”
Ana Pontón ends her reflection and confirms that she will continue to lead the BNG
Historically, the BNG has even mentioned the goal of a Galician republic, but it has never defined itself as pro-independence. Why has it caused such a stir that the leader Rubén Cela affirmed that the organization is not?
The BNG is where it has always been. In fact, we put what we are in our acronym. From what I have been told – I was not there – it was one of the debates at its foundation in 1982, whether to put in the acronym that we were nationalists or not.
But have you been surprised by the general reaction?
Lately there are things that no longer surprise me. But I insist, we are where we were. In the principles that Galicia is a nation, that the State in which we find ourselves is plurinational, and in the defense of the recognition of the right to decide about our future. And, above all, in the conviction that Galicia wins when they don’t decide for us in Madrid. There we have a lot of ground to advance on.
And what is the BNG today?
The BNG is more BNG than ever, more united, more cohesive, with more force and with very clear ideas. And with an objective for the next few years: to start a Galician change and get the presidency of the Xunta within three years. We know that the key is to reach the social majorities of our country.
Some observers speak of a turn to the Bloc’s moderation. Do you share that vision?
I insist, we do not turn anything, we are where we were: in a project with a vocation to defend Galicia and put the country to produce, and which is launched to assume the responsibilities that Galician society has given it. Because it was the Galicians who placed us as the second political force and with the highest number of seats in our history. Our responsibility is to continue to broaden the base.
And how does it widen?
They have to know us more and know what our proposals and alternatives are. I observe a very nervous PP because the Block is not in the corner to which they wanted to reduce us, nor are we pigeonholed in the stereotypes that they build about us. More and more Galicians think that we are right with the proposals that we put on the table: the energy of this country must be at the service of the country. We need an innovation strategy, take care of the environment, change the eucalyptus forest model and aspire to more political power for Galicia. And there is a very wide field with many people who are looking at us.
How do you notice it?
A clear symptom is the last Galician elections. But I also believe that this is an organization that is gathering many people and growing, people who were in the BNG and left, people who were never in politics, or people who have been in other spaces and see clearly that the only alternative real that there is to the PP is the BNG.
He says that people are returning to the BNG who had already militated and left. On the table, is the reintegration of groups and parties split in 2012 in the Amio assembly?
Today’s BNG is not the one from the 90s. This group scheme is a screen that we have already passed, and today we are more BNG than ever. There are collectives within the BNG, but what we are is a cohesive force, which also had to make adjustments in message and tactics at a time when it was very difficult. We had to make very brave decisions and we showed unity, internal generosity and a vocation to go for it all. That scares the PP, which in 12 years built a part of its discourse trying to demolish the alternative. But we are here to dispute the hegemony of the PP.
Do you perceive Feijóo nerves?
After the last Galician elections, in the midst of a pandemic, the president of the Xunta launched a personal offensive against me, to try to discredit me. We see the PP more concerned in opposing the BNG than in governing this country. The manipulation of the public media is brutal. In its information about this assembly, the PP spoke more than the BNG itself. But what I see behind all this is nervousness. Sometimes it is said that nationalism has peaked, and I always say that in the last elections it is the PP who has peaked. The BNG is going to advance.
In the current discourse of the BNG there are echoes of the stage in which Anxo Quintana was leader. Has nationalism been unfair to its role and legacy?
In all the stages that the BNG has gone through, there are elements common to our discourse. For example, Galician nationalism always had a majority vocation. In fact, it was in the 90s [con Xosé Manuel Beiras como portavoz nacional y candidato] when we also get to be a second political force. But today we are neither in the BNG of the 90s nor in the 2000s.
Galicia is not the same either.
Either. We are in a different situation, in which a new generation has taken charge of the BNG and has known how to read what was happening in society and connect with many social segments. Which shows the potential of the BNG when it makes a speech well focused on the reality of the country and a pedagogical effort. I acknowledge to everyone, whether they have been a spokesperson or a militant, what they have contributed to the organization. And I also recognize the merit of all the people who stand up and show their face, which is not easy.
Professor of Communication Margarita Ledo explained in a report from elDiario.es that the BNG “has clarified its message.” Do you see it like this?
It was one of the reflections we made at the 2015 assembly, when we set a new course after analyzing what had happened in recent years and why the BNG was losing support. One of the clearest conclusions was that we should make a pedagogical speech, update it and explain to people what the alternatives are. Because politics is the debate of ideas. Without ideas we would be agencies and for that, neither governments nor democracy are needed. I don’t believe in technocracy.
In the assembly last Sunday he spoke of the “BNG of the yes”.
In these years we have been attentive to the issues that concern citizens, from the electricity scam to what happens with infrastructures, emigration and public services. But we not only make criticisms, but next to each critic we place a proposal. And I think that is building trust. Because sometimes there are those who believe that an alternative can be built in the anti, but I want to build in favor. Our alternative is not to be antiPP, but to be proBNG and proGaliza.
Another proclamation he made at the assembly was that the organization “comes out to win.” Didn’t you do it before? What has changed? There were analysts who disliked “resistance” or being excessively defensive.
I will not assume the stereotypes that others build about us. But now we are at a stage where we want to be very clear about the goals we set for ourselves. We are the second political force in the country and the next objective is the presidency of the Xunta. What we are saying is that we are going to take the work of these three years until the elections very seriously, trying to get it right and with all humility. Because in life and in politics you have to be humble.
He affirms that the PP has reached its electoral ceiling, but can left-wing nationalism enter that space?
The first thing is to have confidence in the country, in the BNG and that our project can reach a major. But beyond the labels that work in politics, for me there is a very important element: there is a majority of Galicians and Galicians who have a great feeling for the country. This is where the BNG has a base to grow. We must channel that sentiment in electoral and political terms.
The bloc’s parliamentary relationship with the PSdeG is not going through its moment of greatest complicity. Will it improve with the new socialist leadership of González Formoso?
In the BNG we have not changed the relationship we have with the Socialist Party. It is a force with which we have specific government agreements in councils and municipalities. And here in Parliament we continue to have the same cordiality as before. We were not the ones who moved.
It is clear that the BNG and the PSOE are different political forces. But, in any case, we already have a broad coalition culture, and that coalition culture must be part of the democratic values that permeate a society. It is clear that the political map in Galicia is not going to be bipartisan, and that we must be able to read what the citizenship commands, not to disappoint those who want there to be an alternative to the PP. We will always be there.
If today you were president of the Xunta de Galicia, what would your shock measures be?
The priority is to fight the economic crisis. A plan must be put in place that allows a sustainable industry based on science and innovation and with quality jobs. The second is to strengthen public services after 12 years of cuts. And third, we need more decision-making capacity on key issues: we must aspire to have all the recognized competences transferred to us and give a debate on the role of Galicia as a nation within the Spanish State. And I do not want to forget the Galician language, which loses speakers because of a premeditated policy of the PP.