Saturday, May 21

Yolanda Díaz: Suso’s daughter reaches the summit | Spain

Yolanda Díaz, Minister of Labor and Social Economy, at Nuevos Ministerios, in Madrid.
Yolanda Díaz, Minister of Labor and Social Economy, at Nuevos Ministerios, in Madrid.Julián Rojas / THE COUNTRY

From the Ferrol of uniforms, parades and guns came the dictator who subjugated Spain for 40 years. From the other Ferrol, the metallurgist, the proletarian and the fierce combatant of the Franco regime, the first militant of the still alive Communist Party (PCE) to reach a vice presidency in Spain will emerge. Yolanda Díaz, who in May will be 50 years old since her birth in the Galician city, has that other world forged in the Ferrol shipyards inscribed in her DNA. Until she made her way into politics, the future vice president was, above all, the daughter of Suso Díaz, the worker imprisoned by the dictatorship who would lead CC OO in Galicia. It almost seemed like a simple family tradition that one day she decided to take command of the Galician IU, then a marginal force and without any prospect of growth. Nor were there big bets in his favor when he arrived, 15 years later and somewhat reluctantly, at the Ministry of Labor in the coalition government.

But there is now Suso’s daughter, the leader who launched anti-capitalist proclamations, converted, to the surprise of so many, into the minister of United Podemos by far the best valued outside her political space. The labor lawyer, always on the side of the unions, transformed into a conciliatory voice with the employers. The woman who shows her PCE card will be second vice president and, according to Pablo Iglesias’ plans, the next electoral poster of United We Can.

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The operation has been rushed in recent vertigo days, although Iglesias had been cooking it for a long time. Outside the doors, the second vice president got into all kinds of hornets’ nests and it was difficult to guess that, behind someone who seemed to seek so much prominence, a leader was hiding, suspecting a step backward. And that an offensive had begun to convince Yolanda Díaz, her friend of years, from long before Podemos, to take over.

Iglesias had concluded that the best electoral poster for Unidos Podemos is no longer him, but Díaz, and he made it see it to her on several occasions. The minister took the pressure off. When political arguments weren’t enough, he turned to personal ones: “How am I going to want to stay in Madrid if I have a house by the sea in Galicia?” Iglesias insisted because he knows her and knows that, first of all, she always says no. It already happened to her when she applied for the Ministry. She refused and even her father learned from the press that she was among those proposed by United We Can. Iglesias gave her almost no choice: “You are going to be a minister.” This time something similar has happened. The elections in Madrid were presented to the still vice president as the opportunity to leave the Government. And, having made the decision, she called her friend to announce that she was giving her the witness.

Díaz says that until he met Iglesias he never thought that one day he could be in the Government of Spain. Before we arrived, IU’s project was something else: keeping a historic flame alive, touching some local power and, at most, influencing from outside. His only public management experience had been three years – between 2005 and 2008 – as number two of the municipal government of Ferrol (A Coruña, 66,000 inhabitants), from which he resigned due to insurmountable differences with the mayor of the PSOE. His alliance with the leftist nationalism of Xosé Manuel Beiras, when the bipartisanship began to crumble throughout Spain, gave him days of success in the Galician Parliament. Until the experiment led to an incessant ordeal of internal conflicts and she found refuge in the Congress of Deputies.

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When she was appointed to Labor, the most skeptical alleged against Díaz antecedents such as these, or as her role in the removal of United We Can from the Toledo Pact. The misgivings began to dissipate after a few days with a great blow of effect: an agreement that implicated the employers to raise the minimum wage. Since then, it has risen to the top and has not gone down again, lately also with a prominent role in the ERTE plan. It has been proposed as a priority to always keep the line of communication open with businessmen, without this meaning renouncing their plans, among which the PP labor reform is still void.

Díaz has not lacked internal battles in the Government, usually to defend proposals that aroused suspicions in the PSOE. He has therefore had his moments of tension with La Moncloa. His tension with the economic vice-president, Nadia Calviño, is not exactly a secret, rather a full-blown clash between the coming union leader and the technocrat from Brussels. It was Calviño who most eagerly —and final success— opposed the small increase of nine euros in the minimum wage for this year proposed by Díaz. On the labor reform, the positions seem almost irreconcilable. The great difference of the Minister of Work with Churches is that she has avoided staging these pulses in public. Nothing indicates that this line will vary.

Within United We Can, Díaz has been free for a long time. Her proximity to Iglesias and her poor chemistry with Alberto Garzón, Minister of Consumption and general coordinator of Izquierda Unida, led her away from this organization, which she left last year. Beyond his friendship with Iglesias, he also does not have excessive ties with Podemos. “I only have one card left: that of the PCE,” he proudly repeats. The same party in which her father was already a member when she was born, at that time when the workers had made Franco’s hometown a battlefield against Francoism.

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