A paper. Written on a computer, “very personal”. Sent back in “March or early April” by post to Moncloa. Not by mail.
That letter was the key, the bridge that made it possible to rebuild the relationships of Pedro Sánchez and Antonio Hernando. A recomposition that was consolidating under the radar for months and that led to the surprise recovery of the socialist exporter for Moncloa. Hernando will be, from this Tuesday, new Deputy Director of the President’s Cabinet. The replacement of Llanos Castellanos, who will now turn to his work in the new socialist executive.
It was Hernando who decided to write that letter. I had thought about it a lot. As sources from his environment tell, he wanted resume the relationship staff with the president. He had “a lot of affection” for him because they had both been close friends in the past and he felt that not everything could end like this, abruptly and forever. Despite everything that had happened. Despite the fact that Sánchez had felt as a betrayal that he accepted to be a spokesperson in Congress with the manager in charge of Ferraz and defended the abstention in the investiture of Mariano Rajoy, in that fateful October 2016.
Hernando had given it many laps and the one who encouraged him the most was who was then the deputy director of the Moncloa Cabinet, the Sevillian Paco Salazar. Iván Redondo’s number. The two have had a “great friendship” for years. “Write him, write him”, the Andalusian leader urged him. Did. He sent the letter and “immediately” they summoned him to the presidential compound. They had a meeting “long, very cordial, in a very personal tone.” Of their families, of their lives. On discharge after years of solitary confinement. Of reconciliation.
A “great friend” of the two had also rowed a lot in favor of that appointment, the deputy Isaura Loyal, current president of the manager of the PSOE-M. She had tried to bring them closer “forever, from the beginning.” “She is a conciliatory woman, who loves both of them well, and who sought to have their ties rebuilt,” are defended by sources familiar with the process.
That meeting between the two leaders was before the Madrid elections May 4, which served as a turning point for the president. Those that gave him face to face with reality and those that forced him to change course little by little. Later he would precipitate the remodeling of his Government. The fall of Redondo and Salazar. The signing of Óscar López as the new Cabinet director and Llanos Castellanos as two of this.
“Nice to work again”
Sánchez and Hernando continued crossing messages in these months. And “a few days ago” the exporter received a call from López, with whom he had maintained a relationship all these years. I wanted to add him to the Cabinet. The president had decided that Castellanos should move to the socialist leadership as secretary of Justice, Institutional Relations and Public Function, and he wanted her to dedicate herself completely to the party. Hernando was “surprised” by the offer, because he had neither expected nor asked for it. He was a partner, administrator and general director of the political consultancy Acento Public Affairs, which in October 2019 he set up with José Blanco. It was going well for him.
The combination of Óscar with Antonio is going to be a cannon
Hernando consulted with his wife, Anabel Mateos, also with Blanco. They both agreed that he had to say yes. “It took little time” to decide. He accepted, “delighted to be able to work with Oscar and the president again.” He felt he had to return to politics, his lifelong calling. Last Thursday, Ferraz confirmed that Castellanos would march to the executive, although she knew of her new destiny well before, about two weeks before the closing of the 40th Congress of the PSOE.
The leader wanted her in Ferraz as a key piece in the new gear, at the top of the command bridge, and that she dedicate herself full time to her new secretariat. On Friday 15, at the start of the conclave, the signing of Hernando was not known, but he had already withdrawn from Accent since Friday and sold all his shares in the company. This Tuesday the Council of Ministers appoints him deputy director of the Cabinet.
The circle is thus closed. More than 20 years later. Because Hernando and Sánchez were not just two more party companions. They were very good friends. They grew personally and professionally together, they went on vacation together. Both had landed at the same time in Ferraz, in 2000, after the victory of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in the 35th Federal Congress of the PSOE, recruited by the Secretary of Organization, Pepe Blanco. Sánchez worked first as an advisor in the International Secretariat led by Trinidad Jiménez, and then in the Economy Secretariat led by Jordi Sevilla.
It’s the best thing that could happen to us, it’s good for everyone
Hernando, from Madrid like him, in the Social and Migratory Policies Department, in the hands of Consuelo Rumí, from Almeria. Óscar López joined the Organization from the beginning, alongside Blanco. Soon the three ended up helping the number two of the PSOE and were incorporated into lists. Sánchez, in the Madrid City Council, in 2003, which Jiménez led. Hernando and López, in the candidacies for Congress, in 2004.
Your trusted man since 2014
Sánchez, councilor in the city council of the capital, he landed in the lower house in 2009, when former vice president Pedro Solbes left the Executive and left his seat. But in the 2011 generals he did not get a record. He stayed at the gates. But in 2012 Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the general secretary who had defeated Carme Chacón in the 38th Congress, in Seville, elected Cristina Narbona to the Nuclear Safety Council, and that movement opened a gap for Sánchez, who was able to return to the career of San Jerónimo and join the work of the political conference that the dome was preparing for November 2013.
The debacle of European 2014 He convinced Rubalcaba that he should leave and call a primary. Hernando lined up with Sánchez. López had to keep neutrality, as the outgoing Secretary of Organization. The Madrilenian won and appointed his friend, as spokesman in Congress. Number three of the generals of 2015 and 2016, he repeated his position and piloted the failed investiture negotiations. Lopez, a spokesman in the Senate, had piloted the strategy of the last campaign.
Pedro needs Oscar and Antonio like air
And then came the breakup. With the federal committee of october 1 2016. Sánchez was beheaded. The manager of Javier Fernández, however, kept him as a spokesperson in the lower house, but displaced López in the Senate. It was the Madrilenian who had to argue in the hemicycle the turn of the PSOE: from no to abstention to Rajoy to avoid third elections. Sánchez felt it like a stab. He considered “a personal disappointment” his yes to continue at the head of the Socialist Group, because he was not a “transmission belt” of its executive, but rather “participated in the strategy” and was therefore co-author of the “no is no”. “I am sorry that he made that decision,” he said in ‘Saved’, before Jordi Évole (La Sexta).
“They will never hear out of my mouth no reproach towards Pedro Sánchez. Never. I have a lot of respect and a lot of consideration and a lot of affection for Pedro Sánchez, “Hernando replied from Congress a few days later, and justified that just as he believed that it was necessary to vote no to Rajoy, he was also convinced that the country could not go to third parties The rupture, however, was more than political. It was personal. As it was with López, who opted for the exlendakari in the very tough primaries of 2017 and was, in fact, his campaign director. One piece of information, perhaps more than an anecdote: Hernando and his wife had thought of Sánchez as godfather at the civil baptism of their daughter Jara.
On the night of the primaries, on May 21, 2017, the Madrilenian won and Hernando submitted his resignation immediate as spokesperson. Since then, he has been an almost flat deputy. He left the scene with the generals on April 28, 2019. He did not repeat in lists, he was teaching classes for a few months until in October of that year Blanco proposed him to set up Acento, a company that has been growing a lot in these two years.
Sánchez got López back last summer. He picked it up from Paradores de Turismo for his Cabinet. And now rescue Hernando. Again, the three of us together. Like two decades ago. So, in Ferraz. Today, in Moncloa. “A convoy that is going to run at full speed”, they forecast in the environment of the president. The three know each other, have worked together and they understand. “It is the merit of both that they have recognized each other to be together again. It is the best that could happen to us, it is good for everyone, for the Government and for the party,” says a leader who knows Sánchez and Hernando very well. The exportavoz has always valued his ability as a strategy and his communication skills. Rubalcaba style, his teacher.
The Hernando’s shadow It was barely perceptible in the Sánchez who won the primaries. In ‘Manual de Resistencia’ (Peninsula, 2019), his account of his passage through the front line of politics until the motion of censure, he only mentions him twice, to applaud his work as a negotiator in the failed 2016 inauguration. Just as he quotes Blanco in passing, who had supported Susana Díaz in the primaries.
But, after the government crisis this summer, ministers and barons who have dealt with Sánchez describe this kind of psychological evolution of the president. They feel him more “affectionate“,” empathic “,” liberated. “His relationship with Redondo, which finally broke after 4-M, had caused” tension in the party, an element of pain “, a burden from which he had shed.
The work of composition of the new socialist executive has been prolonged in time. The chief executive had spoken with the barons. He had closed the bulk of the direction at the beginning of this past week, but the fringes ended up adjusting with the territorial leaders on Saturday afternoon “without tensions”, in a “fluid” way, without problems. He accepted their requests to integrate people he trusted, such as Álvaro Chana (close to the Castilian-Manchego president, Emiliano García-Page), Marc Pons (very close to the Balearic Francina Armengol), Arcadi España (from Ximo Puig) or Mayte Pérez (from Javier Lambán).
Now, that message of internal unity is completed with Hernando, a signing almost more relevant, symbolically, than the design of the dome. “For this transformation, Pedro needs Oscar and Antonio like the air. The three of them were the best of friends. And they are PSOE. The combination of Oscar with Antonio is going to be a cannon, “says a leader who is not at all from the leader’s circle. The celebration of cohesion continues in the socialist house. Because the challenge, and nobody forgets that, is to win the next electoral cycle. And it does not look easy. That is why the secretary general demanded his new executive to communicate the work of the Government. And to kick the street.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.