Fights with the LGTBI sector, corruption, a spokesperson and a lawsuit: half a year on the agenda of the defectors of Murcia

The recent history of Murcia shows that six months in politics is an eternity. The attempt by the PSOE and Ciudadanos to unseat the Popular Party from the regional government last March, after 25 uninterrupted years in power, forced a 180-degree turn in the composition of the Murcian Executive and also in the regional parliament. The entry of three of the four defectors of Arrimadas’s party to the ministries – which dynamited the motion -, in addition to one of the expelled from Vox to the portfolio of Education, was a revulsive that consolidated the power of the popular ones by not depending on external allies to approve the measures and motions that they proposed.

One of the triggers of the motion was Isabel Franco, current vice president of the Region of Murcia, as well as councilor of the portfolio of Women, Equality, LGTBI, Families and Social Policy. Five months later, the leader has kept her powers, and has had to deal with several fronts.

At the institutional level, Franco has had to handle the contagions in the residences of the elderly and disabled in the last wave. A few days ago, they began with the daily screening of workers in these centers that had chosen not to be vaccinated (only 4% according to official sources). According to data from August 11, 72 infections have been recorded, with 20 workers and 72 users with positive results, in addition to six deaths.

On the other hand, the vice president gave the green light in April to a plan of seven million euros to promote family reconciliation, in addition to ratifying 414,000 euros for the care of victims of sexual violence. Until the end of June, Franco had to combine his usual agenda with that of the Ministry of Transparency, Participation and Public Administration, until his colleague Antonio Sánchez Lorente – a fifth Cs leader who allied with the PP in the motion – returned to his parliamentary post. While no new measures were taken forward within that portfolio, he participated in more than a dozen events: from welcoming new promotions of firefighters, to coordinate from 112 the resources available to the possibility of adverse weather phenomena.

Franco had to weather another storm when at the end of May the Murcia LGTBI observatory took its first steps. Two groups of the sector, No Te Prives and Galactyco, criticized that one of the daughters of the president of the Catholic University of San Antonio de Murcia (UCAM), José Luis Mendoza, had a position within the observatory. The head of the UCAM even described homosexual marriage as “an abomination in the eyes of God”. Soon after, the Catholic University assured that they did not know how their representative had ended up there and was withdrawn. However, the complaints do not cease today, considering that one of its members is the Minister of Education, Mabel Campuzano, one of the three former members of Vox who blocked the censure motion.

It should be recalled that the investigations into possible fraud in the primaries (alleged irregularity for which the Ciudadanos party is being investigated), and which made her a candidate for the presidency of the Community in the 2019 elections by Ciudadanos – the party from which she was expelled for bursting the motion – continues and at the moment the evolution of the case does not help her. He tried, like his ex-party, to appear as a victim of the pucherazo in the primaries. An extreme that the competent Murcian court flatly rejected. Meanwhile, the UDEF has repeatedly demanded information about the elections to the political formation, accusing them of intentionally hindering the investigation.

The ‘supercounselor’

María del Valle Miguélez Santiago, another of the deputies who signed the motion and then backed out, has taken every possible opportunity to extol the virtues of the PP Government that today represents after betraying his former colleagues from Ciudadanos. “The regional government is living one of its best moments,” he said a few weeks ago in one of the press conferences of the Governing Council, in which he appears weekly as spokesman of the Executive in replacement of his excompañera Ana Martínez Vidal, leader of the oranges related to Inés Arrimadas and visible head of the motion of censure of last March along with the secretary general of the Murcian socialists, Diego Conesa.

Miguélez, nicknamed the ‘superconsejera’ agglutinates areas of two councils and presides over six portfolios: Business, Industry, Spokesman, Employment, Research and Universities, departments in which he has already promoted plans to promote the social economy, job creation or the revival of industry in the Region. Among the uncomfortable issues that has had to deal with are the accusations to the Institute for the Promotion of the Region of Murcia (Info), under Business, for an alleged case of corruption in the granting of subsidies to companies linked to television producer José Luis Moreno in the Titella Operation. Opposition groups have requested the urgent appearance of Miguélez before the plenary session of the Regional Assembly, but have not received a response.

In addition, he has also been criticized for acting within the Ministry of Universities imposing his authority to benefit the UCAM. The counselor prevented the vote in the Inter-University Council the extension of the degree of Medicine of the Catholic University San Antonio (UCAM) to provide this training next year on its campus in Cartagena. The University of Murcia (UMU) and the Polytechnic University of Cartagena (UPCT), opposed to its implementation, had asked to express themselves on that point at the meeting but was not carried out by order.

From the Ministry that occupies Miguélez highlight among the achievements of the former of Citizens the signing of the V Pact for the Social Economy, with a budget of over 24 million euros for the period 2021-2024, with the aim of generating 5,000 jobs (80% permanent) and the creation of 1.000 companies; the signing of the Employment Strategy to reach in four years the figure of 640,000 people employed in the Region; the Plan for the requalification of the industrial sector of Cartagena or the unblocking of the Logistics Activities Zone of the port city. In the same vein, sources of the Ministry point out that programs have been created to help those people who were left unemployed because of the COVID-19, or who had to close businesses or have been affected by an ERTE.

The fleeting councillor and the defector president

Francisco Álvarez, the third deputy of Cs who sentenced the motion with his vote against, entered as Minister of Employment, Research and Universities, but after 26 days he left. The plans of the defectors changed: they decided to take control of the parliamentary group of Citizens, being a majority – four of six. To do this, they needed Álvarez to resign from his portfolio and thus become its new coordinator. Álvarez held the portfolio for 26 days, a short period of time that has not allowed him to leave any legacy.

Alberto Castillo, the fourth leader of Ciudadanos in discord, was the one who was reluctant until the last moment to explain what would be the sense of his vote in the motion of censure. Finally he abstained: he shielded himself in that his position was that of president of the table in the Regional Assembly and that, being the last to vote, it was already known that the motion would not go ahead, so he wanted to maintain his “objectivity”. Citizens ended up expelling him soon after. In mid-July, Castillo revolted and filed a civil lawsuit against the party, in which he claims that his expulsion process be annulled and his immediate incorporation in the formation of Arrimadas.

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