Josep Borrell’s was one of the first cabinet appointments that we learnt about. When the news first came out, many thought it was a ghastly mistake, but likely the only one. However, when PM Pedro Sánchez unveiled the full list of his cabinet ministers, it became apparent that the new Spanish leader had put together the worst government we could have imagined, a genuinely shambolic mess.
The new deputy PM, Carmen Calvo, was the PSOE’s representative in the talks that led to imposing direct rule on Catalonia. And she bragged about it. The minister of the interior has been slammed for having allegedly sanctioned police torture while he was a judge. He was also appointed to Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary by no other than the Partido Popular. Then there is Teresa Ribera, the new minister for the environment, who authorised the Castor project (1).
While he was Spain’s ambassador to Morocco, new minister for agriculture Luís Planas had no qualms about paying homage to one of Franco’s most blood-thirsty bigwigs. Lastly, we have Spain’s new culture minister, Màxim Huerta, who is better known for his appearances on TV chat shows and controversial Twitter posts on political issues than for his undeniable value as a writer. When you mix in Foreign Minister Josep Borrell and his obsessions, the constellation of names who will take a government seat next to PM Sánchez takes on a truly worrying dimension.
The main reason is that, indeed, Pedro Sánchez’s cabinet choices indicate that he has totally given up on the idea of changing the PP’s key policies. Likewise, the new prime minister’s choices show that the socialist party has failed to understand that the support of Catalonia’s pro-independence parties and Podemos to Sánchez’s vote of no-confidence against Mariano Rajoy was not an endorsement of the socialist party, but a vote against Rajoy.
Given the current state of affairs, Sánchez’s obvious support for the crackdown [on Catalonia] and the adoption of exceptional measures is particularly serious. Minister Carmen Calvo can’t but support direct rule. Likewise, it is outright disturbing that the job of minister of the interior should go to a judge from Madrid’s Audiencia Nacional —a court whose reputation is in tatters— who has been singled out by the European Court of Human Rights in most cases where Spain has been found guilty. Not even the PP had the nerve to ever try something like that.
When Pedro Sánchez was elected prime minister, Podemos’ MPs showed their enthusiasm by chanting “Yes, we can!” while Catalonia’s pro-independence lawmakers rushed to congratulate the new Spanish leader, the man who had garnered their support in exchange for nothing. At the time they still didn’t know that Sánchez would put together a government devised primarily to oppose them and everything they represent. I hope that today, once they have seen the list of appointees, they will harbour no doubts as to the consequences of their freebie and they will waste no time to start thinking about how it can be averted.
(1) The controversial Castor project involved storing gas under the sea off Spain’s Mediterranean coast. It was scrapped only after the works caused many small earthquakes in the adjacent region.