Yolanda Díaz seeks Pope Francis' blessing ahead of Galician elections

El papa Francisco durante una audiencia con la ministra española de Trabajo y Economía Social, Yolanda Díaz Pérez, en el Vaticano - AFP/MEDIOS VATICANOS
Pope Francis during an audience with the Spanish Minister of Labour and Social Economy, Yolanda Díaz Pérez, at the Vatican - AFP/VATICAN MEDIA

Yolanda Díaz is gambling her political survival on the regional elections in Galicia on 18 February. The vice-president of Pedro Sánchez's government knows that her party, SUMAR, will come in fourth place at best, after the Partido Popular, which will once again sweep her Galician stronghold, the nationalists of the BNG and the socialists. Díaz assumes that her party will not win, but if she does not reach 10% of the electoral support, associating with whoever is needed, even with PODEMOS, with whom there is already a fratricidal war throughout Spain, if she does not get that 10%, she will be a useless burden for Pedro Sánchez, and her political career will end.  

  1. Seeking an image with the Pope 

The role that Pedro Sánchez and his national and international godfathers attributed to Yolanda Díaz has already been fulfilled: to pulverise the party of Pablo Iglesias, PODEMOS, the only opponent that the PSOE had on its left and that disputed a part of its electorate. Mission accomplished. PODEMOS has been marginalised, and its days are numbered, as happened to its mirror effect, Albert Rivera's CIUDADANOS.  

The only justification Pedro Sánchez can use to keep Yolanda Díaz in his Executive and with a highly symbolic post is that the novice politician continues to have a pull in her native Galicia, and by contagion effect in the rest of the country. If the ex-unionist does not achieve a decent minimum of representation, it will have more negative than positive effects on the political architecture that Sánchez is preparing for the next governmental future.  

Seeking an image with the Pope 

Yolanda Díaz does not lack a sense of smell and knows that her political future is at stake in the Galician elections in two weeks' time. That is why she is asking Pope Francis for help, so that the Pope's charisma on a large part of the Galician people will benefit her.  

The media image of "a communist shaking hands with the Pope" no longer sells. Nor is it a novelty. Pope Francis received Nicolás Maduro in a private audience and gave him a personal blessing. He had previously done so with Fidel Castro, who was also received by John Paul II. The "historic commitment" of Enrico Berlinguer, leader of the Italian Communist Party, with more than a million militants, and the Italian Christian Democracy of Aldo Moro received the Vatican's "placet".  

Berlinguer did not have his picture taken with either Paul VI or John Paul II, but he attended mass with his wife Letizia, and at his political-religious funeral attended by 1.5 million people there were as many clenched fists as there were crosses and images of the Virgin Mary. The funeral was also attended by Mikhail Gorbachev, who would later be received in audience by Pope John Paul II. Finally, the current Pope Francis also received Vladimir Putin in 2015 after the crisis in Ukraine broke out. Pope Francis' audiences and photos with Yolanda Díaz are therefore of little interest or significance. 

The only things Yolanda Díaz can talk to the Pope about are immigration and work. And on the latter, the Church is a century ahead of the vice-president and former trade unionist. The manifesto made public by the "Church for Decent Work" initiative has been signed by more than a hundred organisations, movements, parishes and associations in Spain, none of them linked to Yolanda Díaz's political movement. The "honorary" vice-president can offer nothing new to the world of work, only to add to what is already being done. 

The only area in which Yolanda Díaz can contribute something, even by making promises that are difficult to keep, is on the issue of migration. Pope Francis and the Church in general are seriously concerned about immigration to Europe and the United States. The Church, more than any other international organisation, knows the reality on the ground in Asia, Africa and Latin America. And it perceives the symptoms of social upheaval in these countries that are the trigger for mass emigration; an emigration that will soon number in the millions and that will not cease unless drastic remedies are put in place for the development of the countries of origin and integration in the countries of destination. Yolanda Díaz, as a political leader, can play a role. That is what they have talked about, and that is why the Pontiff has urged her "not to slacken". It is another matter whether the probable promises that the "sumarissima" has made to the Pope can be fulfilled. But it had to be tried. The Galician elections are just around the corner, and the stakes are high.