The loyal heir who's ready to jump in the ring for his boss

Intimidation, threats and cornering are just some of the strategies González has used "The Madrid regional government doesn't move a paperclip without his permission," say sources

Esperanza Aguirre and her right-hand man, Ignacio González, during a ceremony in Móstoles last January.
Esperanza Aguirre and her right-hand man, Ignacio González, during a ceremony in Móstoles last January.CARLOS ROSILLO

He could be called the accidental successor but Ignacio González González always had the right person on his side.

After the Madrid native graduated with a law degree from the Autonomous University, he found himself working as a senior technical advisor for the then-opposition Popular Party (PP) at the age of 24. And since then he has dedicated himself exclusively to his "boss," Esperanza Aguirre.

For half of his lifetime, González, 51, has lived under Aguirre's shadow, and throughout this time he became the right hand -- and the left hand -- of the Madrid Popular Party leader. He was always ready to confront the national leadership when the Aguirre-bashing came from party headquarters on Genova street. They were never able to overthrow him completely because Aguirre was always there, but now that she is gone, he will have to go it alone.

For the time he served her, Aguirre has left him her legacy. With three more years to go until the next regional elections, González will serve as regional premier -- a political gift to heal his egregious past disappointments, as well as to pay off debts still owed to him.

González knows his work by heart; after all, he has been doing it since November 2003, when Aguirre won the regional premiership on her second attempt.

"The Madrid regional government does not move a paperclip or approve any major expenses without Ignacio González's permission. Inside the party he removes and appoints mayors, makes the election slates and decides on a whim what personnel changes should be made. It has always been this way, even when he wasn't PP secretary general," say past and current regional officials.

The government does not move a paperclip without his permission"

His control is so strict that he once introduced an almost clandestine communications system between counselors through prepaid phones that would expire after 15 days, according to some users of the peculiar procedure.

González is obsessed with finding out who hired a private detective agency to follow him during a trip he made to Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. He used to think that it was a jilted construction tycoon, but now he suspects that the spies came from his own office.

He threatens to take any journalists to court should they try to report anything that questions his integrity. In his game of intimidation, Ignacio González is an "almost invincible gambler," says one former councilor. When, through its former treasurer Álvaro Lapuerta, the national party leadership hinted that the government of Esperanza Aguirre was engaging in espionage practices and opened an internal investigation to find the culprits, González responded with a risky move. PP officials who have knowledge about this savvy maneuver said that González released information to suggest that some national party leaders were allegedly pressuring the Madrid government to award contracts to companies that either sympathized with the PP or were owned by party officials. They got the message back at party headquarters on Genova street: the internal inquiry was dropped. González won that match.

According to allegations in court papers, González was the mastermind behind the spying on Manuel Cobo and Alfredo Prada - city and regional government officials and Aguirre's adversaries within the PP. The espionage plot was allegedly paid for with government money and involved consultants and former security officials earning very high salaries.

But it was Francisco Granados who was sacrificed for actually hiring the three former Civil Guard officers that allegedly did the spying. In just a few months, Granados was ousted from his roles as interior commissioner and PP Madrid secretary general, and banished to the Senate in relative obscurity.

In the internal power struggles and conspiracies, González is the most feared and the most powerful among those in Aguirre's team. Nobody else had gained so much trustworthiness from Aguirre and wielded so much influence on her decisions than González.

González is obsessed with finding out who hired detectives to follow him

With insufficient financial experience, González took a shot at the Caja Madrid presidency in 2010. He made a pact with other political forces to oust Miguel Blesa and ensure an election victory that would have multiplied his salary by 25 times. Aguirre, a staunch proponent of "de-politicization" of the savings banks, enthusiastically supported this backdoor political operation that would have put her loyal squire at the head of the fourth-largest financial institution in the country. But she ultimately surrendered to Rajoy's pick, Rodrigo Rato, to avoid a major crisis in the party.

Ignacio González remained composed. During this time, his solid political marriage with Aguirre became unstitched but did not disintegrate.

In a painful period of self-reflection following the PP's disastrous defeat at the 2008 general elections, Ignacio González came to the party's executive committee with a written speech: "We must not bow down to this short-term complicated opportunism, or think that we have to be like our opponents, with their second brand ideological approaches and false liberal complexes." From that day on the almighty deputy Madrid regional premier was seen as a plague at PP headquarters. Rajoy removed him from the executive committee after winning the party convention in Valencia in the spring of 2008; González would not regain a committee seat until February, after he attained immense power.

Within two weeks, González may officially become Madrid's fourth regional premier and the first one to come on board without winning an election. In that role, he will be under a lot of scrutiny. And González will be keeping a watchful eye on court developments.

In one case, a judge will try to determine who spied on him and for what purposes. In another courtroom, an investigation is underway to find out who inside the regional government ordered the spying on Aguirre's adversaries. A third case is also developing to determine to decide whether a journalist should be penalized for releasing a video demonstrating that there was indeed an active spy ring.

And then there is the case of González's luxurious Marbella penthouse, which is also under investigation. The home is registered under the name of a company that specializes in concealing the names of the proper owners of properties for tax evasion purposes. For the past four years, González has reportedly been paying 2,000 euros a month for the place. Since the inquiry was opened, two police investigators, including a commissioner, have been replaced.

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