Thousands of people this weekend visited Spain’s lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies in Madrid, to pay their respects to Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the former Socialist Party (PSOE) politician who died on Friday after having suffered a cerebral stroke on Wednesday afternoon.
Thousands of citizens waited in line to file past the body of Rubalcaba, many with flowers in their hands and tears in their eyes
As well as members of the public, politicians of both sides of the political divide, King Felipe VI, Queen Letizia, and former Spanish King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía were among those to visit the ex-deputy prime minister’s coffin, which was installed in a mortuary chapel within Congress. Former prime ministers Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party (PP), José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (PSOE) and Felipe González (PSOE) were also present,
Thousands of citizens waited in line to file past the body of Rubalcaba, many with flowers in their hands and tears in their eyes. Some 8,000 people in total came to pay their respects. One particularly touching moment was seen when an elderly man approached the coffin. He stopped and was asked by the heads of protocol in the room to keep moving. But he asked if he could stay “a little more time,” and was allowed to stand before the casket of the former leader of the PSOE for several minutes.
That kind of emotion characterized the entire day on Saturday, with the respectful reverence only briefly interrupted when a man threw some papers into the air in front of the coffin, and demanded to speak to the head of Spain’s CNI secret service or the prime minister. Pedro Sánchez, the acting prime minister, acted quickly, getting up out of his seat and escorting the man to an adjacent room in order to speak to him. He was later escorted from the building by two police officers.
The respectful reverence only briefly interrupted when a man threw some papers into the air in front of the coffin, and demanded to speak to the prime minister
Also forming the vigil around the casket were the speaker of Congress, Ana Pastor, and the acting Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska. Rubalcaba’s wife, Pilar Goya, was present throughout the morning and was accompanied by the closest family members of the politician. The couple had no children.
António Costa, the Portuguese prime minister and one of the major icons of European social democracy, made a special trip to pay tribute to Rubalcaba. “He served Spain but above all he served the values of freedom and solidarity,” he said, after highlighting the “courage” that Rubalcaba had shown in the fight against Basque terror group ETA. The PSOE veteran played a key role in the process of bringing about an end to the Basque terrorist group, which killed 854 people during its nearly six decades of existence.
While the majority of the politicians who came to pay their respects were from the PSOE, there were also key figures from other political parties, including current PP leader Pablo Casado and leftist mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena. Albert Rivera, the leader of center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens), came to Congress on Saturday, and paid tribute to Rubalcaba’s “sense of state.” David Bonvehí, Marta Pascal and Josep Lluís Cleries from the Catalan European Democratic Party (PdeCat) were also in attendance, as was the spokesperson for the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), Aitor Esteban. His colleagues from the Basque wing of the Socialist Party recalled the pain and tears expressed by Rubalcaba in the wake of every terrorist attack carried out by the group.
English version by Simon Hunter.