Politics

Podemos leader visits New York in search of anti-austerity ideas

Pablo Iglesias accuses his adversaries of using state agencies to harass party officials

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias in New York on Monday.
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias in New York on Monday.EDU BAYER

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias on Monday night accused his Spanish political adversaries of using state agencies and institutions to harass his anti-austerity movement.

Speaking on a three-day visit to New York, Iglesias told a large group gathered at the Spanish Benevolent Society in Astoria that the austerity policies followed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) government have done little to help people find jobs.

“Our adversaries find it difficult to see hope as a motor of political change,” he said. “Now they use the state institutions, such as the Finance Ministry, to go after Podemos. But those institutions do not belong to them; they belong to the citizens.”

These traitors told us they were going to solve the crisis but have these austerity policies served us well?”

Iglesias was referring to the recent row between Podemos co-founder Juan Carlos Monedero and Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro over €425,000 that the former reportedly earned as an advisor to Latin American governments. Monedero recently voluntarily paid €200,000 in taxes and fines for declaring the money as a corporate filing rather than personal income tax.

“These traitors said they were going to solve the crisis. But have these austerity policies served us well in the past seven years?” he asked.

Iglesias was greeted with applause from about 500 people, many of them Spaniards living in the United States, when he got on stage to speak at the society’s chapter in Queens.

“Patriotism is not just wearing a bracelet or cheering at a soccer match. Patriotism is part of an ensemble of institutions that guarantee the right to vote, even though you are outside the country, or to have health insurance. Patriotism allows your children to attend good schools, or provides you with a productivity structure so that you won’t have to immigrate,” he said.

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Young volunteers from as far away as Tennessee and Baltimore came to Queens to help organize the event, which was attended by a wide range of people, from Spanish diplomats at the UN to professors, actors and artists.

“This is the first time I have seen a politician so close. I liked what he said,” said Fernando Espí, a psychiatrist from Murcia who works at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

The purpose of Iglesias’ New York visit is to help generate ideas for the anti-austerity platform his party hopes to present in the coming months.

Earlier in the day, he met Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz at Columbia University where the two discussed the problems of globalization and the free market system.

“I came out of there charged with energy,” Iglesias said after leaving the Columbia Business School. “I leave here with what Professor Stiglitz told me: the world economic community doesn’t defend austerity; that the problems are debt, unemployment and inequality, and that we must introduce incentive policies that generate demand.”

Southern Europe cannot continue as a condemned colony whose only outlet is a reduction in salaries”

The Podemos leader said his party wants to apply “the best policies” coming out of the United States and Europe.

“Southern Europe cannot continue as a condemned colony whose only outlet is a reduction in salaries. Europe is under question over the austerity policies it has applied. We need expansive policies like those introduced and that work in the United States.”

Iglesias was scheduled to meet later Tuesday with UN officials, including the chairman of the ad hoc committee on sovereign debt restructuring processes, as well as diplomats from Brazil, Palestine and the Mercosur countries. He is also to meet Spain’s ambassador to the UN, Román Oyarzun.

Later, the Podemos leader will hold talks with Mark Weisbrot, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, who has been very critical of IMF policies.