Tuesday, October 26

From the Bilderberg Club to Galician Davos: the island of the Rías Baixas where the powerful are secluded

The powerful like to gather in isolated places. Or at least they are easily isolatable. The most obvious case is the forum on Mount Davos, in the Swiss Alps. But an island, even if it is connected to the mainland by a bridge, does not seem like a bad idea. Controlling mobility is not difficult. The La Toja Forum, subtitled “Atlantic Link” and promoted by the Hotusa Group, corroborates this: for three days, great Spanish businessmen, systemic economists, former presidents who feel their freedom of opinion threatened and some earthly politicians meet at Illa da Toxa , a sample of seaside Europe, that public and private security make demonstrators and other nuisances armored.

At the end of September, A Toxa is a quiet place. The volume of the madding crowd drops and along its avenues, escorted by piñeiro bravo and chalets on the edge of the mansion category, you hardly see people. The hotels are at half gas. At the time the conclave begins – this Friday, October 1, with a debate on “environmental commitment” in which the president of Iberdrola and Miguel Arias Cañete participated -, only Civil Guard SUVs, cars with tinted windows belonging to the organization of the forum and cars belonging to workers in the service of a property with views of the Arousa estuary. The census of inhabitants of the island, which belongs to the O Grove Council, is 29 people. In the acts of the Hotusa forum, 43 people spoke, 34 men and nine women, King Felipe VI, Pedro Sánchez and the Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa. In addition, dozens of operators are in charge of the event’s administration.

That Toxa is a propitious space for the leaders to agree with each other, it did not occur to Amancio López Seijas, president of Hotusa, three years ago, the beginning of these meetings. As early as 1989, the hermetic Bilderberg Club chose her for its annual meeting in apology for Atlanticism – understood as a submission to US geopolitical interests – and neoliberalism. The guests of the two appointments differ, the thematic nuclei not so much. “They want to take away the labor reform that my friend Fatima did with so much success [Báñez]”, complained this Friday José Vicente de los Mozos, senior manager of the Renault group who also regretted that” some Spanish cities “do not allow cars to enter. The dialogue ran under the heading” the protagonists of the recovery and in it the counselor also spoke delegate of Estrella Galicia and the president of Abanca. The moderator, Fátima Báñez, former Minister of Labor with Rajoy and today president of the employer’s foundation.

The fact is that this 2021 version of the Bilderberg Club – the original was financed by Rockefeller – dispenses with the secrecy of the past. Despite the fact that the press remains in a tent attached to the convention center where the guests speak and follows the matter through screens – the Rajoy mechanism ended up imposing itself with the excuse of the pandemic – without barely crossing the intervening parties, the Forum La Toja seeks media coverage. Galicia Television has broadcast it live, with much more enthusiasm than that shown by the plenary sessions of the Autonomous Parliament. The ideological differences between the participants are subtle, and the debate, scarce. The defense of the bipartisanship of PP and PSOE as the only possible version of democracy, the company as the only factor of wealth creation and attacks on the supposed bureaucracy that makes entrepreneurship difficult are commonplace.

None of the other 15 parties with seats in Congress were invited. Neither do the unions. In fact, the majority in Galicia, the CIG, was denied authorization to concentrate “against the oligarchy” in the accesses to the island, first by the Government Delegation and later by the Superior Court of Xustiza de Galicia. The members of A Mesa pola Normalización Lingüística protesting against the detourpation of the place-name – the official form is A Toxa, not La Toja– they suffered the shaking and shoving of the Civil Guard. Those who were able to meet at the entrance roundabout were the ENCE workers, who defend the permanence of the factory in the Pontevedra estuary despite the fact that the National Court has ruled against it after a fraudulent extension of the concession by the Government of Rajoy. In addition, the Xunta de Feijóo has failed to fulfill the promise – included in the electoral program of the PP – to seek an alternative location for the plant.

This bustle and the overcrowding of the island compared to the usual in autumn disappears as soon as the sun goes down. Not even its famous Casino seems to attract visitors. The public space is limited, the one that the first mayor after the Franco regime, the communist Xaquín Álvarez Corbacho, managed to uproot the Countess of Fenosa, then the owner of the Pastor group and the latter of the island: green areas and inland roads. The nautical clubs with their sports docks or the golf club do not offer evening programming. And the second residences – or third, or fourth: due to the size of the properties, purchasing power is not lacking – remain off behind high walls and thick hedges. The ethics of the private rules in an urban planning where there are many streets whose access is only allowed to “the owners”.

Inside the “extreme center”

The place and its unique characteristics, in any case, fit perfectly with the dominant discourse at the conference. Hot springs and Gran Hotel –of Hotusa– included. What some analysts of public affairs – Tariq Ali – called the “extreme center” seems to be the inevitable condition to be able to impart doctrine in them. And its incarnation, the bipartisanism that in Spain ended up being substantiated, already in the 90s, in the Popular Party and the Socialist Party, but that in the last decade, as a consequence not least of the crisis unleashed in 2008, jumped into the air. In A Toxa it doesn’t seem to matter. That old status quo that it hardly sympathizes with the actually existing reality is here proclaimed from the rooftops. And even retrospectively, as when Alberto Núñez Feijóo, president of the Xunta de Galicia, who attended the conclave every day, affirmed that the two parties that are now the majority –socialist and popular– “managed the Transition.” UCD, the Communist Party or the right-wing Catalan nationalists and, to a lesser extent, Basques, were left out of his account of recent history.

And that self-criticism of the policies defended in the forum was not entirely absent. At least implicitly. When Josep Piqué, president of the La Toja Forum and former Aznar minister, delivered his closing speech, he referred to “Europe’s good response to COVID and its consequences.” Gone are the loans to austerity that characterized the extreme center when Germany dictated it from its dominant position in the European institutions. The new slightly Keynesian faith – the limit of what is allowed in A Toxa, perhaps – is now common in the Ibex and henchmen. So much so that the Hotusa Group itself will receive 320 million euros of aid to the solvency “of strategic companies” from the Public Company of Industrial Participations. But that certain displacement of economic thought does not correspond to the political one. Piqué also made it clear, by repeating the neo-imperialist discourse on Latin America that his old party, the PP, spreads these days: “[Existe el riesgo de] a return to a pre-Columbian mentality that is a pre-western mentality “.


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