This weekend saw the wind of political change strike a blow to the traditional groups, as the streets were filled with people set to take back the ownership of their country, under the banner “La Marcha del Cambio”, where the relatively new political force for change, Podemos, led their followers with a wave of indignation of the problems caused by years of poor political leads.
That change is now filtering down through every level of the political system, right from the very top, and finding firm roots in local politics too. To that end, we caught up with the new leading figure for change in Orihuela, Julio A. Vicente Mateo, who has explained why the next elections are the most important ones for both the country and the local residents alike, and what part he, his group and Podemos aim to play.
Will Podemos be contesting both the national and municipal elections in 2015?
Yes, we are contesting both national and regional elections as “Podemos” political party, and also the local elections but throughout another juridical form called “Agrupación de Electores” or Association of Electors.
This formula, allowed by Electoral Law, is meant to join the different political, social, economical and civil collectives, groups, affiliations and associations together in a citizenship list, formed by individuals proposed by them, voted by every citizen, in order to defend a citizen made political program, compulsive to apply and implement once we take over institutions.
How did Podemos in Orihuela come about and what was the reason for forming a new political party?
Before being Podemos a political party, in Orihuela many people knew that we can, “Sí Se Puede” is what we cheer each time when stopping an eviction or reaches a solution for mortgage debts from banks.
Before and after 15M movement, started as “Democracia Real Ya” or Real Democracy Now, we know that banks and political elite are the responsible of the fatal situation of crisis-swindle the people of this country is suffering, The everyday fight in the streets against banks and public institutions to recover our humane and fundamental rights, fight for rights promoted and carried on by the social movement “Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca” or Platform of Affected by Mortgage, showed us that if we focus on the society we want and work to get it, it is possible to finally achieve it.
Before being Podemos a political party legally constituted, the 3rd of March 2014 a meeting was held in Orihuela with different actors from some social movements and political parties based in Vega Baja del Segura area. We were aware that something big was coming, because many people altogether were and are struggling every day, exercising our rights and liberties that political and economic power are stealing us.
After European Elections on May 25th 2014 we knew Podemos has some support in the city, so people from different movements decided to constitute a Circle, one of many in the State, to apply Podemos political proposals in Orihuela.
Historically, Orihuela has had a strong PP influence. Why do you think it is necessary for a change now?
The change will only come if we, each individual, change our vision and actions, and understand that if want to change something, must act different. We are creating a democratic party since its origins, using tools on the internet to communicate ourselves, propose and vote.
This is the real change, acting everyday to try to construct and build the society we want and wish. We want to extend participation to the whole public, so we all will be able to be protagonist in policy decision making. We want revocability of mandates, compulsory compliance of electoral program, politician salaries limitation. We also want to review and audit municipal debt, have every person protected and secured by institutions, etc.
PP local governments were extremely harmful and pernicious, having left a big debt which is in many cases illegitimate. PSOE and LV neither are doing a better job, as little has been done this last legislature, being more of the same.
PP and PSOE have demonstrated that they come together and support the same policies, and they both are responsible of the current situation. So now, more than ever, the change is essential to end this long period of sacking and pillaging public resources by both parties to defend their own interest.
What impact do you think that the loss of their majority in 2011 had on the local PP?
It was necessary that PP lost its majority last legislature, to end a long period of opaque and corrupt public behaviour and praxis. This last years in the opposition, their only objective was to block any particular request or proposal from other parties, trying to recover local government by revoking motions, using every method they could to reach so, with no victory overall.
As the end of legislature is approaching, and no takeover of power took place, the party is showing its dismemberment, in a clear evidence of its own decomposition, which also is affecting the whole corrupt system established by 1978 regime.
The regime is dying by its own web of corruption, imbricate on public institutions and private corporations. They are consuming our resources, our work and effort by usury contracts and a public and private debt that are to asphyxiate and strangle millions of families. Those debts were in many cases fraudulently contracted by banks, big corporations and governments (all national, regional and local), as they increase artificially the price of the public work or service adjudicated, so the corporation could gift politicians in exchange of public contracts.
Residents of the coastal area of Orihuela have considered themselves neglected in the past, with most investments going to the city rather than the coast. How will you change that opinion if you are successful in your election campaign?
I think this opinion reflects the reality in Orihuela Costa, an area that is the main source of municipal income, but it has some structural deficiencies and a lack of public services which has not been solved since many years ago.
Population and urbanisation of the Coast have grown enormously the last two decades, with a chaotic town planning that was all but planned, as it was mostly done by promoters who bought a plot, requested a license to build the sector and town hall approved it, without any sense or prevision on a global and integral infrastructure planning for the whole area of the Coast.
Only when residents and people from the Coast have the opportunity of participating in the local budget administration, they will be able, by own decision making, to produce the necessary investment of local resources directed to solve their main identified problems.
Some of urgent actuations in the coastal area are the following:
1. – Update census of houses and plots with their shortcomings and failures, where there is population with unique necessities.
2. – The commercial sector has been shocked by crisis and debt, having left failure commercial premises closed down, turning back into bank hands and big companies, who ask for rents so high and difficult for small businesses to afford.
3. – Empty houses property of banks and investment funds, while there are numerous neighbors having housing problems.
4. – In relation to garbage and pruning, collection and recycling, we want a public company working with the selective collection of waste and integral recycling. It could be made to sell from molten glass to organic compost, for example, denouncing the existing contract because is ineffective, disastrous and illegal. The cleaning of waterways, ditches, and ravines should be done more frequently.
5. – Sewage system, integrated sanitation and legal updated adaptation for all homes. Aquagest Water Company didn’t make the correct adaptation of the sewage system and we don’t know where the UE subsidies went. There is contamination in the undersoil and underground river and water as well.
6. – Related to education, sports and culture, the temporary modules for classrooms we have as schools are inadmissible. The Council must press the Valencian Community hard to build appropriate schools for our children.
Children should be provided with a high level of support, not only in academic fields but also with a department where staff helps with all kinds of problems. We want to improve teaching quality and try to solve operating problems arising from the multilingual and -cultural diversity we have. The private management of the Sports Center and its high prices make it difficult for children’s teams to have opportunities to play because of excessive fees.
7. – Emergency services in Hospital of Torrevieja and health centers are deficient and collapsed with patients with long waiting times to be attended.
8. – Communication, “Telefonica” and Networks: We need better infrastructure and better accessibility to the Internet. In most of coast, we can’t get more than three megabytes. This is absolutely ridiculous and unacceptable in a place that should be cosmopolitan and modern.
9. – Public services as Social Security, Tax Agency, Job Centre and firefighters service should be provided also in Orihuela Costa.
10. – In urbanizations of some areas of the Coast there are problems of public safety that must be solved.
This is only a brief description of what is happening on the coast and how much work we have in front of us. We need to collaborate to make our beaches and our community better and keep our environment in the best conditions for residents and tourists.
What importance do you give to foreign residents and what benefits would there be to a foreign voter choosing Podemos?
We give importance to any individual, any person who lives, contributes and share their lives with us in the municipality. We consider every person is a world citizen, and have the same rights and duties all over the world. We also believe that being together and using collective intelligence is the best option to get organised, informed and empowered.
Orihuela has many people from a large number of diverse nationalities who are working here, retiring or caring of their families, people who pay their taxes as everyone in the neighbourhood. In consequence they have the right to participate in local policies and decision making, demanding public institutions to render them compulsory public services.
We want everyone to be the main character of public politics, not mere spectators. We want everyone can participate in public decision making, so we call and invite every foreign individual, associations and collectives to form part of the citizenry electoral programme, starting its collective elaboration the first of February, and be part of the open citizen candidature to local elections, that will have a primary open election to decide the order of candidates taking place from the 15th of February until the 15th of March.
There have been countless legal cases involving politicians and corruption, how does any voter know who to trust and why should they trust Podemos?
What is plain and clear is that we cannot trust anymore those parties that have corrupted active members, because that corruption is structural and systemic on them. Corruption does not affect one individual or one group; it needs the concurrency and implication of many individuals and groups of people (professionals, civil servers, politics, corporations, etc.). It is so implanted in the traditional political parties’ mechanism and institutions control by them that will not ever regenerate and recover themselves from inside.
Podemos have people of different backgrounds, from students to retired people, along with public servers, workers, entrepreneurs, immigrants, educators, public health professionals, unemployed, retailers, disabled, lawyers, volunteers, etc., who never have been in Politics as public representatives.
We are the common People, the ones who have worked or are working very hard to get this country going on, who pay taxes with everyday work and income, who carry out activities to make our neighbours and families’ lives easier and comfortable.
We are very disappointed and feel indignity of our politicians, but from resignation we have switch to determination for a real citizenship change, that will be able to construct better institutions in order to protect people instead of banks and financial corporations.
Politicians from PP and PSOE mainly, but others parties from right to left as well, have lied to us for decades, benefiting big corporations with public adjudications of public works and services, sacking our public resources, which are sacred and should and must be well controlled and managed by the whole citizenry.
We deeply believe that with participation and transparency instruments, limitation of mandate (many politicians are in active more than thirty years), and other measures and means of control and public resources managing, we will be able to invest in people to improve their quality of life, avoiding or making extremely difficult any corrupt or fraudulent use of public resources.
Smaller parties such as CLARO and CLR have gained interest in recent years, although they have both been involved in their own battles, do you think it is important for smaller political parties to work together as a coalition?
The problem of these parties, as many others, is that pay little attention in general interest, as they are busy defending their own individual interests or those of whom finance them. I do not mean that their voters, militants or sympathisers want or pursue the same, I am confident that great majority have good faith as well as vocation to serve and help others.
More than a coalition of parties, we need a coalition of citizens, organised and group together, to follow and reach real politics that have effect in solving everyday citizenry problems and most preoccupant concerns.
What do you and your party feel are the most important changes that have to be made in Orihuela?
We think the most important changes are directed to increase transparency and participation in public decision making, allowing all citizens to be able to consult the public accounts, and to decide about what kind of actuation wants to implement in the city. Thus we could avoid corrupted practices done trough public administration by people and parties that have a long tradition of opacity and authoritarian practices.
In Orihuela we have a main source of revenues from tourism, which is the most important sector after agricultural, so we must boost and strengthen tourism activities, putting in value our monuments, beaches, natural spaces, etc.
Some urgent public works must be done as well: Schools in Orihuela Costa, Health Centre of Rabaloche, improve the existents, and put an end to long waiting lists and beds in the corridor, among others.
We also have to draw an efficient transport and communication infrastructure planning, which connects the different districts of the municipality, both, physical and virtual.
In brief, What we pretend is to extend democracy and participation to all people whatever is their background, creating mechanisms of public accounts control and accountability, as well as to decide any main decision that affects us all, and to collaborate in the elaboration of municipal budget.
In the event of not gaining enough votes for an overall majority, which political party would Podemos favour in forming a coalition?
In view of current local, regional and national political situation, my opinion is that no coalition will be formed with any party as such, but on specific or particular citizenship programme issues, where consent is reached. Podemos will be promoting consulting and voting events, to ask the citizenry about main politics to be implemented in the municipality.
Finally, what about you? Can you tell us a little about your background and why you have decided to stand for election with Podemos?
I am descendant of farmers that have worked land for generations. Civil War had its victims on my both maternal and paternal families: one buried in a common grave in an unknown place near Madrid, one fusilladed in Orihuela.
Thanks to all that work and sacrifice of generations, some civil, political, social and economic rights were recognised and exercised by a majority of people who could sustain and provide with dignity for their families, when job assured the minimal conditions for an adequate existence.
Unfortunately those rights are being cut and vanished, in detriment of the great majority and benefit of small elite who control most of resources.
I think that generational solidarity should also extend to neighbouring people, to national and global scale, where a web of solidarity is devised anytime a person is unprotected and suffering. That is happening among citizens to some extent.
In my infancy and adolescence was an avid reader who read as many kinds of books I got into my hands. Soon I started to get interest in studying law and politics, after finishing science studies in high school.
In university have the first contacts with student unions and social collectives, following very closely anti-globalization movements in the nineties.
After law degree I went to England to work and learn the language, what allows me to have this very interview right now (smile). In London joined some social, peace movements and charities. The experience in the UK was very enriching and stimulating.
Once I got back, I started to work as a lawyer, assisting and advising foreign home buyers. By that period, due to my eagerness for knowledge to understand how the social and political coexistence works and operate, I studied an Urbanism Master and a Degree in Politics.
Currently I work as lawyer based in Orihuela and participate in the juridical commission of one of the most inspiring movements I have ever known and participate, the above said platform against evictions, where people are encountering the enough strength and encouragement to fight for their rights and reach their objectives in order to get a better lives for them and their families, exercising the right to a decent home.
In relation to my political background, I have had relations with almost all known parties, in one way or another. I have shared ideas with many people from many different origins, countries, movements, collectives, parties, ideologies, political views, theories, from the left to the right, liberal, dogmatic, pragmatic, labour, conservative, etc.
What I get of all them is that we must be and act together. The common people are decent and honest, only want to have a pacific life with beloved ones with no shocks or traumas, most of them created by those supposed to protect and defend us. So now it is the moment to start involving ourselves in creating the public reality we wish and desire, now is the moment of change. We know how, we want, and we can. ¡Podemos!
Keep an eye on the website, www.theleader.info, for further updates, including a chat on Exite Radio in the next few weeks, on 93.1fm and exiteradio.com.
Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/46246/