Four months ago, on Monday, March 15, Pedro Sánchez launched a public message in which there were already some of the keys to the profound remodeling of the Government that this past Saturday ended. The message was launched by an interposed person: José Luis Ábalos. The then Secretary of Organization of the PSOE and Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda announced that day the names of the young leaders who were going to prepare the papers for the Socialist Congress scheduled for next October, in which Sánchez wants to make his new proposal visible to Spanish society.
The list was headed by Hana Jalloul -then Secretary of State for Migration- and Lina Gálvez, European parliamentarian, as general coordinators, and they did this distribution of specific tasks: “Jonás Fernández, from Asturias, to Economy and employment; Isabel Gil, from Extremadura, for Feminism; Eva Granados, from Catalonia, for Social inclusion and welfare policies; Ainoa Quiñones, from Cantabria, for Science and health; José Manuel Albares, of the Socialist Party in Europe, to Spain in Europe and in the world; Aina Calvo, from the Balearic Islands, for Just ecological transition and biodiversity; Pilar Alegría, from Aragon, for Education, universities, culture and sports; Nira Fierro, from the Canary Islands, for New rights and freedoms and diversity policies; Denis Itxaso, from Euskadi, to Autonomous Spain and demographic challenge; José Miñones, from Galicia, for Municipal Spain and the rural world; Ana Redondo, from Castilla y León, for Democratic regeneration, justice, democratic memory and constitutional Spain; and Félix Bolaños, from Madrid, for PSOE 2030, a game for the future “.
Among some veteran sanchistas of the Federal Executive Commission, the list caused concern: it did not include a single name of the members of the Executive, which has 47 members. Were they all going to be retirees in the federal Congress in October? Some wondered. Among others, the list was seen with anger: “What does he know (and here a proper name) of mine!”, Exclaimed an executive secretary in private. Some even made jokes about the political beginnings and / or little experience of most of the speakers, including coordinators. Four months later, three of them are already ministers -Albares, Alegría and Bolaños-, and some more could have been if the resounding Madrid elections of May 4 did not cross – there for now Hana Jalloul left her options as minister – and some pumpkins that Sánchez has harvested this past Saturday from some component of the list in the previous paragraph.
In addition to several new faces, the new Sánchez government has four strong women and two strong men. The women, who will take care of the economy, are the three vice presidents – Nadia Calviño, Yolanda Díaz and Teresa Ribera – plus the head of the Treasury, María Jesús Montero. The two strong men -Félix Bolaños and Óscar López, the new director of the President’s Cabinet, where he replaces Iván Redondo- will take care of politics … and the party.
Bolaños, with two hats: that of minister, with the powers that the outgoing first vice president, Carmen Calvo, had until now, and that of now rapporteur for the federal Congress and in a few months a relevant member of the leadership of the PSOE. The name of his presentation says it all: PSOE 2030, a game for the future. It is the task he has received: to think about how training should be and organize itself in the medium term, what to propose to society … and with what means to do it. In addition to the collaborator to whom he entrusts the most delicate matters -for example, taking Franco out of the Valley of the Fallen-, Bolaños is for Sánchez one of the main suppliers of promotable names.
The return of Óscar López to the closest environment of Pedro Sánchez has been – with the departures of Calvo, Ábalos and Redondo – the other great surprise of the remodeling of the Government. His political relationship would make for a successful television series, or for a novel. Based on real events. Here’s a synopsis.
2002/2003, about 18 years ago. PSOE headquarters in Madrid. Pepe Blanco, the all-powerful secretary of Socialist Electoral Organization and Action and the main architect of the surprising victory in July 2000 of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero over José Bono in the race for party leadership, has surrounded himself with three young men in their thirties to govern with iron hand the internal life of the organization, very deteriorated in the previous years of leadership of Felipe González and in the scarce three years of Joaquín Almunia. The three young people are friends, they spend much of the day together and have nearby offices on the first floor of the Socialist headquarters, where Blanco, their boss, is also. Some call them the Blanco Boys. Others, recalling a legendary western movie by Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood, refer to them as “The Tall, the Ugly, and the Handsome.”
‘El alto’, 1.94 meters, is called Óscar López. At that time he is 30 years old. With a degree in Political Science, he has been coordinator of the Secretariat since 2000, Blanco’s right-hand man. ‘The ugly one’, who others say ‘the bad one’, is called Antonio Hernando: 36 years old and a law graduate, he is an advisor to the Secretariat, he takes care of those moments of electoral mobilization. ‘The handsome’, 31 years old, with a degree in Economic and Business Sciences, also an advisor to the Secretariat, his name is Pedro Sánchez. Five years earlier, Sánchez had also worked as an advisor in the European Parliament, where he had coincided with Óscar López, and had been chief of staff for the United Nations High Representative in Bosnia, Carlos Westendorp, during the Bosnian War. Now he does papers for his White boss, campaign arguments, speeches for rallies, etc.
Leap in time, summer 2014. Pedro Sánchez wins the primaries for the first time and becomes secretary general of the PSOE. Among his first decisions, leaning on his two old friends and promoting them politically: Antonio Hernando was appointed spokesman for the Socialist Group in Congress and Óscar López made him first secretary general and then spokesman for the Socialist Group in the Senate.
New jumps in time.
October 2016: Antonio Hernando, who has been Sánchez’s right-hand man during his two long years as general secretary of the PSOE, abandons him and accepts the proposal of the socialist side led by Susana Díaz, who has overthrown Sánchez and remains the party’s parliamentary leader with the new address, that of the manager.
January 2017: Óscar López also leaves Sánchez and becomes the chief of staff of Patxi López, who has just announced his candidacy for the general secretary, a candidacy that seemed to reduce possibilities to that of Pedro Sánchez himself.
May 2017: Pedro Sánchez amply wins the PSOE primaries over Susana Díaz and Patxi López and returns to the PSOE general secretary. June 2018: after a successful motion of censure against Mariano Rajoy, Sánchez becomes President of the Government.
A few weeks after Sánchez arrived in Moncloa, Óscar López is appointed president of Paradores, the public hotel chain that manages almost a hundred establishments. In the PSOE that was interpreted as a half-forgiveness from Sánchez to López. The appointment of now as its new chief of staff – and the fact that some of the new ministers were also anti-Sanchistas in the 2016-2017 socialist civil war – is given a much higher relevance. It would indicate that Sánchez has decided to definitively turn the page of that bloody internal war and count on everyone for the new stage. With everyone? Some of his first-time faithful, those who were with him when the Susanists unceremoniously threw him out the window, believe that such generosity is excessive. Especially if it is done by forcibly retiring them to make room for some of those who betrayed him.
Next episodes: October 2021, with the 40th Socialist Congress, and the new Federal Executive, and the subsequent regional and local congresses. In the list of the second paragraph, that of Sánchez’s message four months ago, there are, in addition to new ministers, some of the next socialist state and territorial leaders.