Newspaper archives from 2009 show how Mariano Rajoy, then the opposition leader, demanded the resignation of the Socialist public works minister at the time, Magdalena Álvarez, following a snowstorm that shut down Barajas airport in Madrid for five hours.
The current interior minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, the public works minister, Íñigo de la Serna, and the head of the DGT traffic authority, Gregorio Serrano, not only refuse to consider stepping down – they actually persist in blaming drivers and the AP-6 toll road operator for the chaos that left over 3,000 families trapped inside their cars for 18 hours on Saturday night.
Zoido does not seem like the best choice to hold such a relevant portfolio as home affairs
Zoido and Serrano were in Seville at the time, and the DGT director had given assurances that he would be able to keep track of the storm’s progression from there. And in light of their subsequent actions, being in Seville was good enough – but it was not good enough if they are to be judged by the standards of efficient leaders reacting to an emergency situation. It wasn’t until Sunday that they traveled back to Madrid to head the crisis committees that clearly arrived too late for all the citizens trapped in the snow. It wasn’t until midmorning on Sunday that 240 members of the Military Unit for Emergencies (UME) managed to unblock the road.
The opposition has demanded immediate congressional appearances by Zoido, De la Serna and Serrano. Detailed explanations are urgently required to understand not only what failed when the government did not close off the toll road in time, allowing vehicles to accumulate on the lanes, but also why the trapped motorists were left to their own devices. The government’s argument that all responsibility lies with the road operator, Iberpistas, is an excuse that only makes the diagnosis even worse, since the protocol review must now also extend to relations between the state and the country’s road operators.
It wasn’t until midmorning on Sunday that military personnel managed to unblock the road
Besides making a detailed analysis of failures and errors, the Spanish head of government should seriously reflect on the incompetence displayed by his interior minister at very relevant times of crisis, of which this snowfall is but the latest example.
Zoido, a former mayor of Seville, was in charge of the ill-fated police action on October 1 during the independence referendum in Catalonia. Images of the police charges made global news and became the main argument used by separatist leaders who had otherwise lost the battle over a credible ballot. The following day, ignoring the most dramatic moment of the independence crisis, Zoido went back to Seville to award medals to members of his former security detail instead of dealing with the situation in Catalonia.
On the immigration front, he has triggered well-justified protests by the Ombudsman, by judges and by non-profit groups for sending hundreds of immigrants to Archidona penitentiary, which is yet to be officially opened for lack of water, and despite the fact that the law prohibits keeping undocumented migrants in prison facilities. As for traffic issues, under his tenure there has been a consolidation of the reversal of what used to be a diminishing road death rate.
In these circumstances, Zoido does not seem like the best choice to hold such a relevant portfolio as home affairs.
English version by Susana Urra.