Yolanda Díaz is about to complete two years of dizzying management, the last nine months also as leader of United We Can. The economic debacle of the pandemic, which he faced from the Ministry of Labor shortly after taking office, was added last March by the resignation of Pablo Iglesias within the Government. She became vice president, a position she did not want, and in the midst of complex negotiations for the labor reform – finally agreed on this Thursday, Christmas Eve – her profile has been changing in this time.
Although Díaz maintains a large part of the team with which he landed in Congress in 2016, the incorporation as chief of staff in April of Josep Vendrell, former deputy of En Comú Podem and member of Esquerra Verda, has contributed to print a more political and transversal to your agenda. In addition to the meetings with businessmen, there are meetings with foreign leaders and, recently, even with Pope Francis. This transversality is marked by an objective that Díaz herself made explicit a few weeks ago: her undisguised intention to seek social support beyond the traditional niche of the “left to the left of the PSOE”.
Along with Vendrell and his Secretary of State for Employment and right-hand man in the ministry, Joaquín Pérez Rey, the vice president is accompanied by eight key profiles in the hard core of the cabinet. Among them, the one attached to Vendrell, Estela Pazos; the head of legal coordination, María Amparo Ballester; or the communication director of the Ministry, Virginia Uzal, the person who, together with Pérez Rey, spends the most hours attached to Díaz and also acts as a liaison with the Podemos press officers.
It is a multidisciplinary team – there are jurists, economists, journalists and a philosopher -, joint, horizontal in discussions and, in general, young, which in a short time has made the head of Labor the best valued leader in Spain , with an average 4.84, according to the December CIS, and the second preferred (17.1%) to be president of the Government, only after Pedro Sánchez.
Behind this rise and the messages surrounding the launch of his future political project, a platform yet to be defined that aims to transcend the parties, many see a specific change in strategy to raise their profile and add followers. More than a great turnaround, sources from his team defend, what has been done is “deepening” the line that Díaz had been following since he took office. “The main difference has to do with the change in context and responsibility: the vice presidency forces her to broaden the range of issues to deal with and to have a comprehensive look,” say the same sources.
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“The moment she becomes the spokesperson for the space, she tries to set her own profile, differentiating herself from the image of Podemos and its predecessor [Iglesias], and there are two elements that define it, ”explains political analyst Cristina Monge. “On the one hand, Díaz represents the friendly and collaborative face, both with his partner, the PSOE, and with the public. On the other hand, she projects herself as a dialoguing woman capable of reaching agreements. Also in this it differs from Iglesias, closely linked to iron ideological positions ”, comments the expert.
“The vice president is a person of firm principles and convictions,” emphasizes a collaborator, who rejects a recent change of discourse, also in relation to the parties. Díaz recently called the political formations an “obstacle”, despite the fact that she is a member of the PCE and has done so for many years in the IU. The head of Labor publicly insists that her position is the same that she defended in her years in Galician politics, when she contributed to the founding of En Marea, a conglomerate of organizations that came to surpass the PSOE in the regional Parliament and that four years later it lost all representation.
Link with the ‘commons’
Since he ascended to the vice presidency, Díaz has only made two signings on his team. One of them is the chief of staff, Vendrell. He and the vice president became friends between 2016 and 2019, when both were serving as deputies in Congress. The politician began his militancy in the PSUC, the Catalan formation that later was diluted in Iniciativa per Catalunya, and accumulated experience in coalition executives by holding different positions in the Catalan tripartite governments between 2006 and 2010. Vendrell was also an autonomous parliamentarian between 2011 and 2015 and in June 2019 he was appointed coordinator of the En Comú Podem group in the Parliament. His environment defines him as a person “with the ability to reach agreements.” An “ideal” profile to politically strengthen the team of the second vice presidency and “grease” relations in the coalition, these sources point out.
The other incorporation came precisely from the hand of the Catalan politician and is an old acquaintance of Podemos: Rodrigo Amírola. This graduate in Philosophy worked in the Political Secretariat of Íñigo Errejón and in Vistalegre II he was included in his candidacy against Iglesias. After the defeat, Amírola decided to withdraw, went to Barcelona and later ended up as chief of staff for Jessica Albiach, the spokesperson for the commons in the Parliament.
In the vice-presidential team, Amírola works as a speech consultant, as does the writer Fran Pérez Lorenzo. The latter worked as a journalist in various media until he joined the Podemos communication team in Madrid, where he assumed the position of press officer for Carolina Bescansa. After the breakup of the Galician woman, one of the party’s founders, with the leadership then headed by Iglesias, went to work in Rivas.
Every time Díaz, in the control session to the Government, says that about “Mr. García Egea, I am going to give you a piece of information”, a collective work of the cabinet culminates. This is also where the work of the economist Manuel Lago, a former regional deputy from En Marea, enters, who in February was appointed a counselor of Navantia as a representative of the Ministry of Labor.
Elena Cardezo is another of the people close to the vice president and frequently appears, along with Pazos and Uzal, portrayed on their social networks in informal situations. “This relationship is real, he trusts his people a lot and is close,” says a former Diaz collaborator. A Law graduate and legal advisor, Cardezo began working in Congress as an assistant to the Galician confluence. With a more theoretical profile, the team also highlights the work of the political scientist Xaime Subiela, a well-known professional in Galicia who became a councilor in Ames, a municipality with just over 31,000 inhabitants. He was recruited to coordinate the En Marea group in Congress and later entered the ministry.
The vice president has been arousing a lot of interest in the business world lately, and she is invited to a multitude of events. On several occasions he has expressed the good personal relationship he maintains with Antonio Garamendi, president of the CEOE. Although private, his environment maintains that meetings with businessmen take place since he arrived at the ministry. In this new agenda, managed by Vendrell and Pazos, her recent meeting in the Vatican with Francisco was surprising, a personal endeavor of Díaz for which she worked for months and to which she attended without any other minister, but accompanied by practically her entire team. The same person who surrounded her on Thursday in her statements to the media when she came out to announce the agreement to which her political capital, the labor reform, has relied largely.
Until now, the vice president avoided pronouncing on electoral responsibilities because she was “focused” on the repeal of the PP law. Having achieved the objective, a new stage begins.
The risks of specifying the speech
Yolanda Díaz announced that she would start next January the so-called “listening process” with different professional sectors throughout Spain to shape its electoral platform, the broad front with which it wants to transcend the classic field of the left of IU and Podemos, but There is still no specific date and it is possible that the start-up will be delayed a few weeks because, in addition, she has to negotiate the minimum wage again as minister. Little or nothing is known so far about that “country project” that Díaz has referred to for months. “When they begin to specify, there will be sectors that are left out, both from an ideological and organic point of view,” predicts political scientist Cristina Monge.
The agenda of these months, with the conflicts within the coalition over the increase in the minimum wage or the labor reform, and later the metal strike in Cádiz, has been modifying Díaz’s plans. The electoral advance in Castilla y León also influences the vice president’s calendar, who wants to separate it from the launch of her platform. Two years of regional, municipal and finally general elections remain.