Days after denying that there were any links between the Galician government and businesses owned by a jailed smuggler, regional premier Alberto Núñez Feijóo on Wednesday admitted that some contracts between his administration and firms owned by the now-inmate could exist.
Speaking in the Galician parliament, Núñez Feijóo was asked about his friendship with Marcial Dorado, who is serving a 14-year sentence for drug trafficking. Their relationship has been called into question after EL PAÍS earlier this month published a series of photographs taken in the 1990s showing Núñez Feijóo and Dorado vacationing together.
At the time, the Popular Party (PP) premier said that he cut all personal ties with Dorado after he found out that he was being investigated by the High Court. He also denied that there had been any business dealings between him and the regional government.
On Wednesday, Núñez Feijóo wasn’t specific as to what type of contracts Dorado’s firms were awarded but said he got “more aid and subsidies” during the time that the Socialists and nationalists governed the northwest region between 2005 and 2009.
His statements caught the entire parliament, including the PP Galician bench, by surprise. Just a few hours earlier, the spokesman for the Galician PP, Pedro Puy, denied to reporters any business links between the Galician government and Dorado.
Opposition parties, including the Socialists (PSdeG-PSOE) and the Galician BNG nationalist bloc have demanded Núñez Feijóo’s resignation. The BNG went as far to invoke the memories of all the victims who have died because of drug trafficking.
Xosé Manuel Beiras, leader of the Galician Leftist Alternative (AGE) was on the verge of tears when he recalled friends of his who have died from AIDS.
During the question-and-answer session in parliament, Núñez Feijóo sidestepped inquires about who paid for the trips that he took with Dorado. He admitted traveling with Dorado to Cascais, Portugal, the Balearic Islands, Tenerife and the Picos de Europa mountain range in Cantabria.
He said he could not recall when he last spoke to him, and said that if he had known that Dorado was a smuggler he would not have struck up a friendship with him.
“If I had had that information, I would have never posed for photographs with him,” explained Núñez Feijóo, who at the time was rising through the ranks of the PP administration of Manuel Fraga.
“I am giving you all the explanations that I can, and with full transparency and humility. Now if some Galician citizen believes that I should apologize for what has happened, I will apologize,” he said.
While he initially said that he cut all contact with Dorado in 1998 when he discovered he was under investigation, Núñez Feijóo acknowledged that he may have spoken to him sometime between 2001 and 2003.
Those conversations were recorded in phone taps by investigators, according to the judge who sentenced Dorado on drug trafficking charges.
“It could have been that I called him up to wish him a happy birthday or merry Christmas. I can’t recall every single person I spoke to during that period,” he said.