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THE END OF AN ERA IN ORIHUELA

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We have achieved a lot in just four years,” said Monseratte

As a unique chapter in the history of Orihuela is about to come to a close, it is a time of reflection for those who will be leaving the political battlefield.

Whereas some of those staying may well find themselves ousted by a new wave of politicians, there are many who are voluntarily moving away from the front line, as is the case for the current Mayor of the municipality, Monserrate Guillén Sáez, who has opted not to stand for re-election after four years at the helm.

Having fought for the environmental concerns of his hometown of Torremendo, Guillén was already seen as a key player before becoming a full time politician. With his later, more vocal, concerns about the mismanagement of the municipality under the Partido Popular, upon becoming Mayor four years ago, it was inevitable that both those key factors would carry him through this term, the time that Orihuela was not governed by the PP.

Summing up his time as the head of a minority government rocked with its own turmoil, facing two attempts at a political overthrow and experiencing a near fatal heart attack in the process, Guillén is adamant that for him, he has achieved exactly what he intended, as his “stability plan has now been fulfilled”.

Guillén himself has reflected on his time at the head of a municipality that had become historically implicated in corruption and scandal, and facing a much needed cleanup, Guillén admits, “I knew it would be very difficult and complicated”, knowledge learnt during his previous eight years as an opposition councillor facing former Mayor, Mónica Lorente.

It was upon taking to power that Guillén became more aware of the reality of what he was taking over, as he explained, “we found 30 million euro in drawers, yet the electricity and telephones were cut, there was no fuel to put the police on the streets, it was on that day you realise things had to be done differently. We paid a lot, not only euro 21,500,000 in adjustments, euro 8,500,000 in court cases, which we paid regardless of sentences, plus a whole day clearing outstanding invoices. Today we have sufficient liquidity.”

It is also now that things are done differently, with far more control and management than ever before. That itself is not without difficulty, as Guillén explains, “We may have other problems such as the financial controller to put things in place and tell us how to do it. That costs us but the situation occurred because of a lack of specialized staff in different departments”, largely due to the PP´s obsession with “ensuring votes”, rather than doing the job that was needed.

Whilst governing in a minority it was extremely difficult to achieve much by means of voting in the plenary sessions, as the majority opposition would mostly object to any motion tabled, irrespective of the value presented, and facing enforced austerity measures by the central government keen to cap the previous lavish overspend .

Guillén admits that, “we were unable to make investments, at least not many”, especially given that “revenues were between 30 and 40% lower than previous years. I do not want to make excuses for the management, but we must take into account other difficulties. It is one thing is to have a corporation that does not support you, but at least do not attempt to torpedo everything you do, and that is what we have had.”

Despite the attempts of the coalition to make change, faced with such opposition, Guillén claims that “at the end we have seen what it was. A PP dismembered which was to serve their own interests, with people leaving their party, a totally dismembered CLR, and yet, the PSOE and Los Verdes are in the same place”.

With so much corruption seen throughout recent years, and despite his decision to not stand again, Guillén for one has not lost faith in the political system, “No, it´s not politics. I’ve spent my whole life in policy and politics, and it can be a very nice word when performed honourably.”

But if it´s not politics that´s the problem, then it must be something else, “Yes, politicians”, he believes, not all of them, but “when they focus on their own purposes and do not consider the people they represent”, that “is despicable.”

Guillén also believes that with the recent history of mismanagement, having lost the last elections, the PP simply “never wanted to fix it”. He says that “We were very clear that Orihuela needed four years of tranquillity”, away from corruption, as “Orihuela needed those four years and I knew it was the only chance to get this town clean.

That has conditioned us all because it would have been easy to leave, but it was worth it and that’s what we tried”, but not only that, what the current government has done has been “very important”, because “we can leave it clean and in the honour of those who have ruled.”

When faced with critics who say that the last four years resulted in a cessation of growth and advancement of the municipality, Guillén admits that in terms of lack of investment, it is true, but during the last four years, “we have ensured that the model of political corruption no longer exists” and they have not been idle. Faced with ensuring a continuity of services with less money and problems that sometimes occur, “if the streets are not clean enough one day the next day they are, we have not had the eco parque I wanted, that is true.

But if the government can open drawers and see that no hidden bills, if there is aren´t any unpleasant surprises, if there is some liquidity”, as is the case in the end of this term, then “we have achieved a lot in just four years.”

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/47319/

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