October 23, 2020

Álvarez-Cascos, the dinosaur that did not survive the new policy


Sad epilogue for one of the last Mohicans of the old politics. Betrayed by those who were his fellow party members, the one he founded in 2011, Francisco Álvarez-Cascos with his own initials (FAC), faces a judicial process accused by Foro Asturias Ciudadanos (FAC) for crimes of misappropriation and unfair administration of funds of the party. It points to the definitive end of the long political career of who was one of the leaders of the Spanish right. Before there have been other endings for the “general secretary” and he always uses to fight before he dies.

Cascos tells the judge that the accusations of misappropriation are "ridiculously false"

Cascos Tells Judge Accusations of Misappropriation Are “Ridiculously False”

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Strong and overwhelming, with an enormous personality and also arrogance, tireless worker and authoritarian command. He has been married three times, divorced three more, and has six children.

Cascos’ mentor was another political tyrannosaurus, Manuel Fraga, and his main enemy, Cascos himself. “It has always been believed above good and evil,” says Raimundo Abando, a former PP militant and president of the port of Avilés. He accompanied Cascos on his adventure in Foro and jumped off the ship quickly when he learned the direction of that journey.

Helmets returned to Asturias in 2011 as King Pelayo amid general discontent and with the outraged movement thundering in the streets across Spain. In five months he was appointed to the regional presidency. Who had been everything in the PP became the greatest enemy of its formation, waving the flag of the end of bipartisanship in Asturias. It was two weeks after 15M and 35 years after starting politics. He did it in the same place where his epilogue now lives: in Asturias.

“Secretary General”

In 1976 he began his political career, with the affiliation to the Democratic Reform, and in 1979 he released the act of councilor in the City Council of Gijón with the Popular Municipal Group. He was young (31 years old) and the only one on the right in the room. But it mattered little for this engineer from Gijón with an overwhelming personality and stratospheric ego. Fraga was his “political father” in his times of Democratic Reform and Popular Alliance and with him he shared identity traits: good orators and authoritarian, populist and industrious leaders. As loved as they are hated, inside and outside the party. Political animals, both, who also shared a love for fishing and hunting and a love for their homeland.

In 1989 his moment arrived and he took advantage of it well. Fraga appointed him secretary general of the PP and José María Aznar, candidate for the elections, named him his strong man within the formation. Both his loyalty and his heavy hand were unquestionable within the Popular Party. There he earned the nickname of “general secretary.” Within the PP, those who had no respect for him were afraid of him. Outside, it was the scourge of the PSOE, both from the government and from the opposition.

“He was a magnificent general secretary,” explains Raimundo Abando, referring to the virtues of Cascos as number two. “But it was a horrible number one.” Even so, the Asturian politician stood out as Secretary General for his “tough guy” facet and as Vice President and Minister of Public Works under José María Aznar for his loyalty and for being successful in different scandals that plagued the Popular Party. But not Francisco Álvarez-Cascos. From the Naseiro case to the Gürtel plot and the papers of Bárcenas through the Prestige crisis (for which he received from Fraga the medal of the Xunta General de Galicia while in the streets of Galicia the manifestations of Never Again and the indignation for the management of the maritime accident) to the endless construction of the Pajares railway bypass. The controversies always accompanied him but Cascos boasted of being successful.

After staying out of the leadership of the PP in 2004, he left politics to dedicate himself a few years to business. Until 2011. When he realized that his companies were not going so well, he tried to reengage with the PP and return to Asturias. His disagreements with Gabino de Lorenzo, mayor of the PP in Oviedo for 21 years, and especially with Mariano Rajoy, leader of the formation, would deny him his “return home” as a popular candidate for the Asturian presidency.

Out of political spite

He founded a party that came out of nowhere, adopted the leader’s initials as initials, and in a few months he won the elections. “The case of Foro Asturias will be studied in the Political Sciences universities,” says Xuan Cándano, founder of Atlántica XXII. It all happened in just three weeks.

At the end of 2010, Cascos left “out of dignity” the Popular Party where he had been everything and decided to create his own party that better adjusted to his political and financial ambitions.

In this way, at the beginning of 2011, he founded the Asturias Citizens Forum “out of political spite” with a goal on the horizon: to end bipartisanship in the Principality or the Duernu Pact.

Socialists and popular lived happy times until the arrival of Cascos. The PSOE retained the regional presidency and the PP the mayor of Oviedo, its great conservative stronghold. A good part of Asturian society, tired of being in the eternal background, economically and politically forgotten, was looking for a champion to defend its interests. And Cascos wanted to be his man.

He found the gap in this pact of non-violence between parties resorting to an Asturianist and regenerationist discourse and alluding to big names like Melquíades Álvarez or Jovellanos and the “degeneration of the PP and PSOE”. And it worked for him.

Four months after its foundation, Foro wins the elections in Asturias and Cascos rises as president of the Principality. He was a Helmets reborn, but not renewed, as his ideas, ambition, and leadership remained intact.

“It is a paradox because no one from 15 M votes for him, but he manages to connect with what is defended in that movement,” says Daniel Ripa, deputy for Podemos in the General Meeting of the Principality. “He managed to win over public opinion.”

President, president

What seemed the simplest, forming a stable government in tune with the PP, became a utopia, largely due to the personality of Cascos, unable to get off the throne to negotiate with those of his former party. His government lasted nine months. The president called elections in 2012, hoping to reach an absolute majority, and what Foro reached were 12 insufficient seats to form a government compared to the 16 of the PSOE in the General Board. That was the beginning of the end for Cascos and the Foro Asturias experiment.

“The thunder box was uncovered because of its authoritarianism,” Cándano explains. “He was a leader within the formation and that would end up burying him.” Helmets came to Foro with a political and media baggage that allowed him to make and break his own party at will. Nobody dared to say anything.

However, the failure in the 2019 regional elections, in which the formation removed two deputies, was the determining factor in the internal war that plagued the formation. Moriyonists against Casquistas. Consequently, Álvarez-Cascos resigned as vice president of the Forum after disputes with its current president, Carmen Moriyón, who decided to audit the accounts in the years in which Cascos had power, until accusing him of misappropriation and unfair administration of party funds. Nothing else to lose the presidency of Asturias He awarded himself a salary in the party of 134,000 euros, double what he earned in the Principality. Those were the times when he felt he was the owner and lord of the formation to which he had put his own initials.

The audit revealed excessive salaries, constant invoices and inexplicable expenses charged to training for a total value of 1.8 million euros.

The party leader told the judge this week that the accusations they are ridiculously false. But the procedure and his accusation go ahead. The courts of Oviedo may be the last scene of the sinking “of the last dinosaur of the transition”, in the words of Xuan Cándano. Figures as emblematic and complex as that of Álvarez-Cascos seem to have a difficult fit in the current political landscape.

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