Francoist Galician mayor: “Nobody is going to change my ideas with bombs”

Popular Party official, 74, remains defiant after attack leaves town hall in ruins

The Beade town hall in Ourense, Galicia after Monday’s bomb attack.
The Beade town hall in Ourense, Galicia after Monday’s bomb attack. Nacho Gómez

“Nobody is going to change my ideas with bombs,” said the mayor of Beade, Galicia, after an explosive device destroyed the ground floor of the town hall early on Monday morning. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack, but initial suspicions center on a radical Galician nationalist group. “The modus operandi is very similar to others in the region recently,” said the deputy government delegate in Ourense, Roberto Castro.

The mayor, Senén Pousa of the Popular Party (PP), has been in office in Beade for four decades and knows all his constituents by name. “I like to get along with everybody,” he said in a recent interview with EL PAÍS. Pousa is also an unabashed admirer of General Francisco Franco. His office sported a portrait of the late dictator, a library of books about his life and a pre-democratic Spanish flag, bearing the Nationalist eagle. Pousa termed the unknown assailants “savages and cowards.”

“If they have something against me, let them show their faces, not do this,” he told a throng of reporters outside the ruins of his offices. The explosion was ferocious. It blew out the windows and doors and caused serious structural damage. The area remained cordoned off on Tuesday amid concerns the building could come down. The blast radius also reached the nearby health center. Investigators determined that the home-made bomb was constructed using a pressure cooker with explosives packed inside.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz told television station Antena 3 that the attack was “clearly the work of radicals.” Responsibility for explosions during the summer at Novagalicia Banco branches in the region was claimed by Resistência Galega, a leftwing separatist organization that has carried out a series of attacks against the offices of institutions and political parties, without causing physical injuries.

Pousa has never made any attempt to hide his Francoist ideology. Quite the opposite in fact: “Never in my life has anybody in the party said anything about my way of thinking. And that is just as well because I won’t accept impositions,” he said in the September interview with this newspaper. Esteban González Pons, a senior PP figure and policy advisor, warned in August after photographs of youth wing members posing with fascist symbols emerged: “We made our position very clear in parliament in condemning Francoism.”

Party officials in Galicia said they “did not know” what Pousa keeps in his office, but until recently the mayor held a Mass every year on November 20 in honor of the dictator, “and nobody in the PP ever opposed it.” The Masses have ended now though. “People from AMI [a Galician nationalist youth group] came to the church and made trouble,” Pousa says. The mayor is a member of the Francisco Franco Foundation and has proudly hosted the dictator’s daughter, María del Carmen Franco, in Beade.

There's corruption in all political parties."

“The party shouldn’t deny history,” he told EL PAÍS. “There are many in the PP that share my ideas but they never say anything.” Pousa, however, is certainly not afraid to speak his mind: “Lots of people talk about atrocities committed in 1934 [the violent repression of a Communist, anarchist and laborer’s insurrection] and blame it on Franco. Come on, he was just a plain soldier then. People should talk sense. His worst mistake, which was an atrocity, was taking the country into a civil war.”

Well-mannered and of a friendly disposition, Pousa always speaks to his constituents in Galician and raises quick and ready smiles. His ringtone is a version of the Francoist anthem Cara al sol. “If I’m with someone from the Socialists or the Galician National Bloc, who are also my friends, I let it ring a while to piss them off,” he says with a laugh. And he is no apologist for the corruption scandals engulfing the country, and his party in particular. “There is corruption in all the political parties. Those who are responsible should be made to pay, but they are all financed with money from businesses in return for contracts. Nobody gets anything for free, and everybody looks after their own.”

At 74 years of age, Pousa holds membership card number one for the Ourense branch of the Alianza Popular, the PP’s forebear. He has no intention of retiring from the mayor’s office — a post he has never received a salary for — but he is also under no illusions that he will find a political heir: “Francoism died with Franco, so I don’t think the picture on the wall bothers anyone. The day I leave here I’ll remove all the things.”

As yet unidentified people attempted on Monday to bring that day forward. In angry scenes outside the town hall, one of Pousa’s daughters accused the Socialist spokesman in Beade, Miguel Ángel Carreiro, of being behind the attack. Calling him a “terrorist,” the woman shouted that Carreiro “takes aim with his words and lets others do the shooting.” She had to be hauled away by local residents. After the fracas, Carreiro lodged a complaint with the police.

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