To the general public, she may seem like a newcomer. His name and his face have only taken flight in recent weeks, since he took the step of appearing on the Pablo Iglesias list in the Madrid elections on May 4. But Lilith Verstrynge (Madrid, 1992) has already accumulated a couple of three-year terms in Podemos. It cannot be otherwise to apply for a position such as the one that will be officially assumed in the next few days: Secretary of Organization. On paper it will be Number Three of the party, after Ione Belarra and Irene Montero. The position he has accepted is a crusher of people: he is the fourth person to occupy it in just seven years. She will also be the first woman to do so. But everyone in the party has seen in her the qualities necessary for the position: discreet, orderly, hard-working. And of the party, of course.
We can turn the page of Pablo Iglesias and entrust Ione Belarra the command to relaunch the party
Lilith Verstrynge left Madrid at the age of 17 to study in Paris. A couple of years later 15M broke out, at which point he returned to his hometown temporarily. He wanted to see first-hand what was happening, people around him remember. The passion for politics comes from the cradle. His father, Jorge Verstrynge, was one of the first general secretaries of the Popular Alliance, the conglomerate of parties founded by several Francoist ministers, with Manuel Fraga at the head, and which at the end of the 80s of the last century transmuted into the current Party Popular. By then, Verstringe Sr. had also abandoned his ideology and moved to the left and active republicanism.
At that time Lilith Verstrynge did not want to do normal politics, but to be a journalist, although at the age of 14 she did a kind of internship at IU with Manolo Monereo. In 2014 he participated in the Foundation of Shoot Magazine, a small fanzine born from the waves of 15M. Back in Paris, she worked in another magazine, in which she became head of the political section and with which she still maintains a relationship: Le Vent Se Lève. He also joined the Podemos circle in the French capital, where he assumed more and more responsibilities. A classic in political organizations when it comes to young women. And a constant in the trajectory of Verstrynge, whose work capacity, say those who know her, makes her accumulate tasks and tasks that others tiptoe through.
In the French capital, the Change Forum collaborated in the organization, an event attended by some of the party’s founders. The then-MEP Tania González took her eye on him and suggested that he do the internship for the master’s degree that he was finishing in the European Parliament. It was September 2015 and at first he said no. After thinking about it, he rectified and accepted.
That master’s degree was in International Relations from the Sorbonne Nouvelle University, where she also graduated in European Studies and International Relations. Before that, he had already graduated in History from the Denis Diderot University, also in Paris. In addition, he was trained at the Republican Institute of Public Service, focused on political cadres and high officials, according to the biography communicated by the party itself in recent days.
The internship in the European Parliament lasted a few months. But her work stood out, and a lot, those who treated her say. Whoever was one of her bosses in Brussels, the former deputy Estefanía Torres, says that “it is impossible to work with her and not realize” the qualities she has: “decisive, effective, thorough”. At the end of the practices, already with the suitcases ready to return to Paris, Torres offered to accompany the delegation during an accountability trip for the parliamentary work in Asturias, his community. There they went.
“After three days I spoke with a colleague to open the team and have her stay,” Torres recalls. “He ended up coordinating almost all the team’s tasks. He did everything, he is very versatile,” he adds. Other people who have worked with her over the years agree with this description. Pay attention to the “small details.” And “he reads people well, he has patience.” Qualities that are undoubtedly good for those who assume the Secretariat of Organization of a party. In reality, it is difficult to find someone who speaks ill of her.
The only reproach that is heard is the one that criticizes the uniformity that currently exists in the leadership of Podemos and for which the leaders all belong, roughly, to the same political family. This is how one MEP who worked with her in her period in Brussels expressed it: “Prepared, traveled, with good training, languages and a gift for people. She is soft in her ways. Nice. Normally she has no problems. In addition, she is a very party charge “.
However, the ascent of Verstrynge to the Secretariat of Organization is considered by some veterans of Podemos, who look out of his departure from the front line on the horizon of 2023, as a true renewal of the party, whose executive, pending confirmation by the Citizen Council, will be dominated in its main responsibilities by women. In fact, the first six people on the list with which Ione Belarra prevailed in the IV Citizen Assembly are precisely women, although the one who will be now Number Three It was a little further behind, in position 13. The membership vote advanced it two squares and placed it in 11.
From Brussels to the CCE
In 2019 the mandate ended in Brussels, but the new delegation, led by Idoia Villanueva, counted on Lilith Verstrynge after the very tough and complicated May electoral campaign, which was held amid growing tension over the (later failed) negotiations for a Coalition government with the PSOE, and with the More Madrid split competing in the regional elections on the same day.
A few months later, he began working in the Podemos Ecological Transition Area. And in January 2020 she received the call from Pablo Iglesias, who signed her for his team in the Second Vice Presidency. She had interviewed him for her magazine. The founder of Podemos took good note of his questions and his speech. His work under the orders of the former secretary general happened, precisely, to coordinate the messages that were given from the ministries of United We Can with those of the parliamentary group. In May of that year he was already part of the list of Churches to the Citizen Council, where he assumed responsibility for the Ecological Transition area, but without becoming part of the executive.
For a year and three months, he worked hand in hand with the Secretary of Discourse and Political Analysis of Podemos, Manu Levín, and with the Secretary of State for the 2030 Agenda, Ione Belarra, who are politically responsible for the coordination between the Government and Parliament. Again her ability to work, say those who shared those months with her, did the rest. And when Iglesias decided to take the step and run for election in Madrid, he counted on her.
The result of the elections, better than that of 2019, was not enough. Isabel Díaz Ayuso was guaranteed a second short term now with the support of Vox and Iglesias announced that same night of May 4 that she was completely leaving institutional and organic politics. The next day the Podemos machinery was set in motion to elect the founder’s successor in just five weeks.
Along with Idoia Villanueva, Verstrynge has been one of the people who have carried the weight of Belarra’s candidacy and the organization of the IV Citizen Assembly. Both were called to occupy important positions in the new direction, alongside other women such as Irene Montero, Isa Serra, Alejandra Jacinto or Noelia Vera.
Lilith Verstrynge will officially assume from this weekend one of the most complicated portfolios of any political party. There were many people who, half jokingly half seriously, offered their condolences when the news spread. As they relate, he told some of them that he plans to keep, as before, in the background, working with discretion. In fact, in the proclamation of Belarra last Sunday, she did not seek to place herself in a place where she would be captured by photographers, in the group of leaders who accompanied the elected secretary general on stage. And that, as systematically happens with any young woman who tries to do politics in Podemos, as soon as she poked her head out, she was the victim of the usual tsunami of hoaxes and tricks with sexual references in media and social networks that men almost never have to face.
Verstrynge faces a very complicated challenge in which its predecessors have failed: for Podemos to take root at the territorial level. Without a presence in municipalities and regions, it is very difficult to achieve institutional power in municipalities, councils and communities. In fact, the elections at that level are the ones that historically have been the worst for the party, except in 2015. The profile chosen by Belarra to assume this responsibility is very different from those who previously covered it: Sergio Pascual, dismissed by Iglesias in full war against Íñigo Errejón for control of the party, for participating in an operation to gain control of the party in Madrid; Pablo Echenique, scorched in the many internal fights, especially with Teresa Rodríguez’s Anticapitalistas; and Alberto Rodríguez, who tried to bring his union experience to internal negotiation, without much success and with a pandemic involved.
The organizational model that your Secretariat designed, but could not implement, will now be the one that Verstrynge attempts to deploy. The objective: that Podemos grows in militancy and implantation. It has barely two years to do so, before a new electoral cycle opens in which the role of the party will depend, in part, on how it carries out the task entrusted to it.
In his speech before the IV Assembly of the party, Verstrynge made a plea of republican principles, inherited directly from his time in France. He spoke of building a “healthy democracy, free of corruption”, of “not fattening the accounts of four gentlemen”, of achieving an “articulation between reason and emotions that will lead to a free, republican and secular society.” “Defending social services, young people or the equality of men and women is republican. Spain is already republican, and it only needs a little more time to realize it,” he defended.
He also recalled one of the mantras of the foundational Podemos: the longing for triumph. “Podemos was thought from the victory. There is nothing more radical than winning,” he said. An appeal to the origins of a party that in just seven years has liquidated almost an entire generation of young people willing to break down the limits of the political system that emerged from the Transition. Verstringe will be part of the relay.