Monday, July 4

Moreno’s “talisman cow” and the second life of the “Andalusian agricultural PP” after 40 years of fear of the right

The PP electoral caravan stops at noon on a rural road on the outskirts of the Córdoba municipality of Añora, in the Los Pedroches region, in front of the El Cruce cattle farm, and Juan Manuel Moreno jumps out of it, in dark jeans, a khaki shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and New Balance sneakers. “Where is he?” he anxiously asks the farm owners.

CAMPAIGN DIARY | Moreno and the incognito glasses

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Everyone knows who the Andalusian president and popular candidate for re-election is looking for. In the 2018 campaign, Moreno was already here, in this farm of 350 dairy cows, and the TVE cameras recorded the moment in which the candidate approached one of them and whispered in her ear: “Are you going to vote for the PP, or not? Say yes, man.”

The video went viral on social networks, but over the years it has been resignified. In 2018 it was the image of a desperate candidate, who seemed to be running an erratic campaign, riddled with occurrences, and who was heading inevitably towards disaster. But a month and a half after that conversation with the cow, Moreno was sworn in as president of the Junta de Andalucía. The first president of the PP after almost 37 years of socialist hegemony.

Before leaving the province of Córdoba, heading for this Wednesday afternoon in Torremolinos (Málaga), Moreno has ordered the caravan to stop at the same farm to meet up with his cow, named Mascalesse Fadie (700 kilos in weight; almost 1.80 in height; 70 liters of milk a day), with whom he has once again posed for the cameras. “My friend is back. She this is a talisman cow for me. Let’s see if she brings us the same luck that she did four years ago, and I’ll take her to San Telmo [sede de la Junta]”, he joked.

“Agro PP” proudly

Moreno’s reunion with the cow Fadie it also symbolizes the second life of the PP in the rural interior of Andalusia, land traditionally off-limits to the right. What the socialists used to sarcastically call “the PP agro”, to refer to those “deputies who entered with high-heeled shoes on the manure, balancing to avoid falling”. Until the popular ones assumed the term with pride and made it their own.

Historically, the PP has always had a hard time penetrating the rural Andalusian interior, in small municipalities with left-wing mayors for 40 years, where the image of the Andalusian “gentleman” had a strong response at the polls. “In some areas of Andalusia, saying that you are from the PP has never been easy,” Moreno acknowledged in 2015, the first time he campaigned. It was a verifiable reality. Javier Arenas’s caravans used to pass several times along the coast -especially the Costa del Sol-, and only punctually and reluctantly through the interior, the PSOE’s impregnable fiefdom.

In 2012, that began to change, with the first and only victory of the PP. And in 2018 and 2019 it changed completely, when Vox burst onto the scene with 400,000 votes in the Andalusian elections and 800,000 in the general elections. Part of the strength of Santiago Abascal’s party came from the rural Andalusian interior, where they knew how to sow votes in a land already fertilized by the endemic malaise of the agricultural and livestock sector.

In this campaign, that vote of anger between PP and Vox is in dispute. Those of Abascal have opened the gate and those of Moreno try to take advantage of their time in the Andalusian Government to empathize with those who previously could not, because “they had been scaring us for 40 years, 40 years listening to the negative pedagogy of the PSOE.” The difference is that what the extreme right is saying today was heard years ago from the mouths of some historical leaders of the Andalusian PP: a discourse that denied or mocked climate change, and criminalized environmental and sustainable development policies as being guilty of structural evils of the Andalusian countryside.

Today no one from Moreno’s PP publicly defends those postulates, what’s more, the president usually speaks of a “green revolution”, although the left-wing opposition takes it lightly and reminds him of his land law -permissive with urban development in rural areas – or the plan to pardon irrigation in the Doñana area.

In the rural interior, the stigma of a right that is alien to the towns and the countryside is fulfilled better than in other latitudes. But, in reality, the PP has never had this problem in the Los Pedroches region. Here there are 17 municipalities and they govern in five, with more population than all the others: Pozoblanco, Añora, Dos Torres, Villanueva de Córdoba and Villanueva del Duque.

Some of its mayors were waiting for Moreno on Wednesday at the El Cruce farm, along with local leaders and the president of the PP of Córdoba, Adolfo Molina. “This area has always loved us very much, we have towns with PP mayors since the 90s,” says Molina. The region of Los Pedroches is a rare exception in the Andalusian countryside. Here the historical memory of the Civil War is different, there were clashes until 1939 and most of those shot were from the right, although the subsequent repression of the left was also brutal. A large mass grave is now being excavated in Hinojosa del Duque.

It is an area more livestock than agriculture. 70% of milk production in Andalusia comes from here, and the sociological profile of livestock farms, mainly cattle, is that of owners with an income well above the average. In the community there are 570 livestock facilities, which represent 17% of the industry and make Andalusia the third region in Spain in meat production (with 77% of the total).

In addition to meeting the cow again, Moreno has been listening to the Rodríguez brothers -Manuel, Miguel, José and Antonio-, owners of this Norwegian farm, who have complained that “production costs have become unsustainable as a result of a galloping inflation”, aggravated by the war in Ukraine, which has also raised the price of fuel, electricity and basic raw materials for livestock, such as corn and cereals“. “Not them, but many small owners have had to close,” said Moreno.

Inheritance tax in campaign

The Rodríguez family manages a farm with 350 cows, of which they milk 320: they produce around 12,000 liters a day. One of them is the president’s cow, who was born in February 2015 -a month after Moreno landed in the presidency of the Andalusian PP-, gives 70 liters of milk a day and already has “two sons and a few granddaughters”. Antonio, the youngest of the brothers, explains that they work from six in the morning to two in the afternoon and from five to nine. They have an automated milking parlor and that, he explains, has made their work much easier. When asked how much they bill a year, he smiles and turns to Moreno without saying a word.

The Rodríguez brothers have inherited the El Cruce property from their late father. The Andalusian president has recalled that they “could not benefit from the elimination of the inheritance and donation tax” for agricultural holdings, which his Government approved as soon as they arrived, and they had to pay a tax of 80,000 euros “because of the previous Administration” .

It was going to be a quick visit, but an hour has passed and Moreno is still here. The president improvises a press conference surrounded by cows, and gives his explanations while in the background the streams of urine and dung can be heard falling to the ground. And nobody twists their face or seems uncomfortable or out of place, not even when one of the animals sticks its head out and licks the microphone that Moreno had been using minutes before.

The photo with the cow, by Aguirre

Everything has changed since the last election campaign, the popular feels “loved”, is delayed in the sites, talking to people and journalists who follow him. He is only bothered by the allergy – “I don’t know what” -, which causes a kind of nasal congestion. “When I go out on the field, it happens to me. Is it because of the hay in the air, I don’t know. I have told Jesus to prescribe me something, but he has given me a bunch of pills,” he says. Jesús is Jesús Aguirre, Minister of Health, number one of the PP in the province of Córdoba, who accompanies the president on this visit. “He doesn’t listen to me, so he doesn’t care what I prescribe for him,” he jokes.

Aguirre is the true star in these parts. During the visit, she has sung several times the refrain of I have a milk cow. The listeriosis crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic have given him a disproportionate public projection for a Health adviser. He could be burned or resigned or dismissed, but he has become a benchmark within the PP. In the Andalusian congress he was applauded as much or more than Moreno. “This is my area of ​​influence, I am very much from the village,” he says, smiling. Then it is he who takes the photo with the president’s cow. “Actually she votes in my constituency, so she votes for me,” he explains to the photographers.

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