In an extraordinary press conference at the Galicia parliament on Monday, Alberto Núñez Feijóo of the Popular Party (PP) played down the significance of a series of photographs published by EL PAÍS showing the serving regional premier on the yacht of a convicted drug trafficker in the mid-1990s.
“They are just old photographs and this has been corroborated in various judicial investigations,” Feijóo said in response to the demands of opposition parties in the region for “convincing explanations” about the nature of his relationship with Marcial Dorado, who is currently serving a 14-year jail term for drug-related offenses and was considered one of the kingpins of the Galicia smuggling mafia.
Feijóo went on to say that he had not entertained the notion of resigning as he had done “nothing illegal.”
“If I had thought that these photographs would pose a risk [to my career], I would never have stood in the [Galicia] elections,” he added. “The photos are what they are: photos. There is nothing behind them. Neither contracts with the Xunta nor [former National Health Institute, of which he was president] Insalud, or PP party financing because at that time I was not a member of the Popular Party.”
Feijóo, who is viewed in the party as a potential successor to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, alluded to a shadowy figure who since 2003, when he was named deputy regional premier, had been constantly threatening to bring his friendship with Dorado to light to scupper his political ambitions.
They tried to intimidate me and did not succeed”
“They have tried to intimidate me all this time and they have not succeeded. I will continue to speak my mind.”
The regional premier maintained his position that when he knew Dorado, he had no idea of what he did for a living, despite the trafficker’s previous arrests, in 1983 for smuggling tobacco and in 1990. “I investigated but I was told he hadn’t been convicted. I made the mistake of not investigating further with my own resources.” Abel Losada, spokesman for the Socialist Party in the regional assembly, said on Sunday: “The only person in Galicia who didn’t know in 1995 that Dorado was a smuggler was Feijóo.”
Feijóo also stated that he informed Rajoy and then-regional premier of Galicia, Manuel Fraga, of the existence of the photos in 2003 or 2004 and that neither reproached him in any way.
Calls for Feijóo to resign continued to gather pace on Monday. The regional Socialist leader, Pachi Vázquez, pointed to a “stable relationship with a person classified as a drug trafficker,” in calling for Feijóo to step down.
The Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG), the most vocal grouping in calling for the premier’s head, reiterated that the matter was of “sufficient seriousness for his immediate resignation.”
Feijóo said that he was introduced to Dorado through a mutual friend, Manuel Cruz, who worked as a chauffeur for several members of the regional parliament and that the relationship was “indirect,” and had no bearing on any official decisions he made. “By my understanding, [the photos] formed part of the material seized during a search of Marcial Dorado’s property years after [they were taken] and were dismissed as irrelevant in several judicial operations.”
To add to Feijóo’s woes, he has been one of the loudest voices in the party hierarchy to call for a full investigation into the alleged illegal payments contained in the Bárcenas ledgers. Last week in an interview with Abc, Feijóo opined that the PP should ask forgiveness for the actions of its former treasurer.