Begoña Villacís (Madrid, 43 years old) this week celebrates two years as deputy mayor of the capital of Spain. After the debacle of Citizens in the autonomous regions, where it went from 26 to 0 seats, it has been proclaimed as the coordinator of the party in the region. His share of power and his voice in training carry more weight than ever.
Question. Will there be Citizens in two years?
Answer. I will try that yes. We have two years left. We have mayors, vice mayors and vice presidents of communities for Spain. Right now we are not strong, it is true, but because polarization is everywhere.
P. The voter is not able to see where the hand of Ciudadanos is in a coalition government. The PP covers them in almost everything.
R. That is the nature of a coalition government. What we have to do is more pedagogy than a coalition government is. Spain is politically and media organized for majority governments.
P. Didn’t they know it before they governed?
R. Yes, but you had to have a government. What we did was to enforce our pacts in the government action.
P. Did Ciudadanos do a good management of that immense flow of votes that you garnered in 2019?
R. A bull past well … I’m sure we could have done better. Governing, however, I think we have done well. The Citizens’ areas in the City Hall are working well. Urbanism is working like never before and social services, where, by the way, we have just vaccinated all the homeless.
P. On Sunday he went to the Columbus demonstration and said: “Here we are today, which is where we have to be, which is next to the Spanish.” Are those who were not or those who are in favor of pardons less Spanish?
R. I believe that there is a majority of Spaniards who are against pardons.
P. But are those in favor less Spanish?
R. (Silence) It is not a question of Spanishness.
P. You said it.
R. No, I say that there are Spaniards who agree and disagree.
P. Rosa Díez said that those who came were the good Spaniards.
R. Any phrase if you squeeze it can be … Here’s one thing clear: President Sánchez lied. Two years ago he said that he was not going to pardon and that he was even thinking of adding to the sentence so that this would not happen.
P. Albert Rivera also said that he was not going to support Rajoy as president and ended up supporting him.
R. And he explained it. We are not talking about a minor issue. We are talking about normalizing the lie. We have a prosecutor [general del Estado, Dolores Delgado] who has been Minister of Justice. He said that he would not rule with Podemos and he governs with him. Sánchez has no limits and in no time Bildu is going to be any party, like Ciudadanos or PSOE. The fact that there are people who do not apologize for murdering and killing even children will be normalized.
P. Bildu condemns any violence in the statutes of his party.
R. Bildu has refused in all parliaments to condemn the killings. And they receive ETA members. It is not a game like the rest. I would go to Colón again.
P. Why wasn’t the photo taken then?
R. Because it was a call from civil society. The parties cannot patrimonialize everything, as when the left patrimonializes feminism.
P. And the right the flag?
R. Indeed, it belongs to everyone.
P. Do you share Ayuso’s words about the King?
R. It was a mistake. I wish I could do like Men in black and erase that phrase at once from all Spaniards.
P. Do you get along with her?
R. Yes; me, with everyone.
P. Aguado didn’t get along so well …
R. When you go through such extreme stress, it is difficult. The relationship suffered during the pandemic.
P. Have you talked with Aguado about that time when you could be mayor and he was vice president with Gabilondo? Would they have done better?
R. No, we haven’t discussed it. Past water does not move mills. The most important thing is that it has been well governed. In the City Council I believe that we form a good government.
P. Do you think that the citizen of Madrid differentiates what Ciudadanos does from what the PP does?
R. It’s not very hard. Almeida is often credited with the good deeds of Ciudadanos, but it is normal because he is the spokesman for the City Council. It is difficult, but it is very good that there are governments in coalition. I would not want an absolute majority, because it leads you to think that you are untouchable.
P. In the case of Madrid Central, for example, Almeida advocated closure and now it seems that he is an environmentalist to maintain it. You, on the other hand, were not against it, but you are in favor of changing the name.
R. Our program was very ambitious from an environmental point of view. You don’t always play fair. The left says that we are going to withdraw Central Madrid, and it is not true.
P. But more vehicles are going to enter than before.
R. Because the merchants’ vehicles are going to enter, they have to be treated as neighbors. Local commerce and hospitality are basic. Local commerce cannot be suffocated because the population is disappearing.
P. The motorcycles are not from the merchants and they will enter one more hour, from 22.00 to 23.00.
R. Motorcycles are efficient for the environment.
P. Another hour?
R. This makes it more attractive. It is something that works. A person on a motorcycle pollutes less than in a car.
Motorcycles are effective for the environment
P. And a bike.
R. I wish everyone could ride a bike, but no. By kilometer and distance there are people who benefit. If you give incentives, you prevent someone from taking the car and taking the motorcycle. If the measures are insufficient, we will improve them. Not only is Madrid Central, we have the infrastructure of the Metropolitan Forest, which is 75 kilometers of forest.
P. The city has a network of 130 kilometers of bicycles. However, during the pandemic only 12 disconnected temporary kilometers have been built and without taking up space for the car. Why was the bike not opted for during the de-escalation, as did the great European capitals or big cities like Barcelona?
R. It is the first time that you stop looking only at the center. The center is the media and what gives you the most headlines. We have decided that the right to health does not belong to the center, but to everyone.
P. It happens in all European capitals.
R. Most of Madrilenians live off the M-30.
P. But on the issue of the bike, why not bet during the de-escalation?
R. It is going to continue betting. We are going to do the Castellana bike path. If there are insufficient ones, more lanes will be made.
P. BiciMad’s public service has diminished. The workforce has decreased and complaints are frequent among users. Has it been well managed?
R. This last year I don’t think it can be taken as a reference.
P. It’s the last two years.
R. We have had to prioritize. We have been through a pandemic and also [la borrasca] Philomena. I think you have to be on top of maintenance, but more stations have also been opened.
P. But with fewer people managing those stations.
R. We inherit many limitations. We have done what we can. I think it is well managed.
P. A battle of hers against Almeida is looming on the terraces. Are you in favor of extending the covid terraces beyond December?
R. Yes, because hoteliers need it to survive. Between a car and two jobs, the question is resolved. You have to take care, of course, the noise they cause to the neighbors. You have to negotiate with everyone.
P. Speaking of the neighborhood fabric, how is the regulation of Airbnb floors?
R. We’re on that.
P. ¿An advance?
R. We are listening to all sectors. The competition has to be fair.
P. Does it have to be regulated for days, like in Barcelona?
R. We’re on that. Out of respect for the parties, I cannot go any further.
P. Let’s talk about ghost kitchens. Why isn’t the license suspended until the ongoing investigations are resolved?
R. It can not. We are looking to regulate so that there is no impact on the neighbors.
P. And why not limited, at least, those that are attached to schools?
R. It can not. We have to talk to the Community and now everything is stopped due to the elections.
P. Regarding the feminist mural of Vallecas, have you already made the decision whether to withdraw it, as Vox requests?
R. Those women don’t bother me. It seems good to me that they are there. I will only take a step to erase it when the direction of the center asks it, if it wants to paint something else.
P. Is Vox at the mercy of the City Council?
R. There are eraser, paint and color matches. To put streets, remove murals … I am to manage. They don’t get in my way for management.
P. There is a tendency for politicians to call Madrid the capital of everything. The Department of Sports paid 12,000 euros to get the prize of the world capital of sport in 2021.
R. Madrid had a very strong candidacy. It is an achievement that carries many positive things. Gaining that visibility is important internationally to attract international sporting events.
P. Are we going to show up to the Olympics?
R. I would love to.
P. Have you discussed it with Almeida?
R. He also agrees and now the criteria have changed a lot.
P. Will she be the Citizens candidate in the City Council for 2023?
R. I do not know yet, but I will continue in Ciudadanos. I have to give it a lot of thought. I don’t do long-term calculations.
P. And in the Community?
R. We are going to build a project in two years based on municipalism.
P. And who is going to direct it?
R. There is no need to run.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.