A mayoral candidate with the anti-austerity Podemos party in Spain says she has refused to yield to “blackmail” over the fact that she did prison time in her twenties for being an accessory to murder. News of her past was disclosed on Sunday by the online daily El Español.
“The story has been published because I did not give in to the blackmail,” said Pilar Baeza, 54, who is running for office in the city of Ávila at elections scheduled for May 26. “If I had dropped out of the race, this would not have been made public.”
We have an ethical code and it has not been breached
Pablo Fernández, Podemos official
The news story revealed that Baeza participated in the murder of a young man named Manuel López when she was 23 years old. The victim was shot dead by Baeza’s boyfriend and a friend, who used a weapon that Baeza took from her parents’ gun store. She had told them that the victim had raped her, although this claim could not be proved in court. López’s body was dumped in a well.
Baeza was sentenced to 30 years behind bars for the crime, which took place in Leganés (Madrid) in 1985. She was sent to Brieva penitentiary in Ávila, where she served seven years and was released. Nearly three decades later, after building a new life for herself in Ávila and getting into politics, her past has come back to haunt her.
“I am being lynched as a person and probably as a woman as well,” she said at a news conference on Monday. “My parents, who are no longer alive, have always given me the strength to carry on. The naïve and inexperienced young woman that I was 34 years ago has nothing to do with the woman that I am today.”
I am being lynched as a person and probably as a woman as well
Pilar Baeza, mayoral candidate
Pablo Fernández, Podemos’ secretary general in the Castilla y León region, described her as “the best example of social rehabilitation.”
“We are a party that supports respecting and enforcing the Spanish Constitution,” he added, noting that Baeza has already paid her dues to society.
“My only goal when I got into politics was to try to improve the quality of life of the people of Ávila,” said the candidate.
Baeza also said that she has been pressured in recent times to drop out of the mayoral race. “But I don’t accept blackmail and I don’t sell myself. This is not the first time that my past has been used to make threats. If you ask me if it’s worth it, I’ll say yes. My father used to say that you need to learn how to adapt to the circumstances around you.”
Fernández confirmed that the party was aware of her past. “We have an ethical code and it has not been breached. This person has paid her dues many times over.”
Both he and Baeza devoted much of their time to criticizing media coverage of the case, and said that the blackmail attempts would be reported to the authorities.
English version by Susana Urra.