The photographs of the regional premier of Galicia, Alberto Nuñez Feijóo (PP), in a yacht with Marcial Dorado, a well-known smuggler who is now in prison for drug trafficking, are more than just an interesting anecdote. Nor are they a matter that can be shrugged off with the claim that he is being victimized by some mysterious accuser, whose only aim is to discredit a rising politician. To whom is Feijóo referring when he says they want to intimidate him? To the opposition in Galicia? To sectors of his own party with whom he is at odds?
Two things do Feijóo credit: he has faced the issue without delay, something unheard-off in the present PP, and his public mea culpa on Monday, blaming himself for never having looked closely into the activities of his longtime friend.
But these arguments are flimsy. It is implausible that, in the mid-1990s when the photos were taken, Feijóo was unaware that Dorado already had a thick dossier of brushes with the law. In two major operations against contraband and money laundering carried out in Galicia shortly before that time, Dorado had been officially investigated and arrested. The first case was shelved, having come under a statute of limitations; in the second he was released due to lack of evidence. All this had been abundantly covered in the local, national and even international press.
Flimsy, too, is Feijóo’s claim that the degree of friendship between himself and Marcial Dorado was only slight. A mere “spare-time acquaintance,” as the regional premier termed it on Monday, of sporadic encounters is not normally associated with outings on a yacht, visits to the other party’s mansion, and joint trips with the family. Not even the manner of striking up this friendship was free of suspicion, since it was a regional government chauffeur who acted as a front man for Dorado and who, according to Feijóo, introduced him to the drug trafficker. His explanations as to the nature of the relationship between them have so far been confused and insufficient.
Feijóo, who has one of the highest profiles of any of the PP’s regional “barons” at national level, now faces a serious problem. His former relation with the Galician “drug lord,” at a time when he already held high political office, does not make him an accomplice to any illicit activity unless the contrary is demonstrated, but it does cast a shadow over him that is hard to accept in an elected representative. All the more so in one who, like Feijóo, has made a cause out of the need for hard-hitting political action against corruption, in one’s own party as well as others. Nuñez Feijóo himself, who cannot now take back his words, kicked up a fuss over photos showing a political rival, the then regional vice-premier Anxo Quintana of the BNG, next to the businessman Jacinto Rey, holder of lucrative regional government contracts, in the latter’s yacht. “A member of government cannot be photographed in bad company,” said the regional PP leader at the time about the photos, which were also taken before Quintana took office. Feijóo’s political prospects depend chiefly on his self-proclaimed management skills, and on an image of cleanup and reform. The first are not in question here. The second is more debatable.