There is still a significant part of Spanish society that believes the nonsense that the Prestige did not harm the Galician PP. This is an error generated by a very unfocused analysis of the 2003 municipal elections, focused only on some towns in A Costa da Morte. As if trying to banish such nonsense, the chance of the ephemeris has accumulated the twentieth anniversary of the worst oil slick, which is being commemorated these days, with the centenary this Thursday of the birth of the longest-lived political survivor of the dictatorship, Manuel Fraga, whose career politics lasted almost six decades. He wrote that the Prestige was the main factor in his departure in 2005 from the position he held the longest, that of president of the Xunta. He did it for 15 years, although his most decisive position was that of Franco's minister for a seven-year period.
Without the catastrophic management of the black way by the popular government of José María Aznar and without also the commotion caused in Galicia by the knowledge that Fraga had gone hunting in Castilla in those days stained with tar, the lion of Vilalba, as it was Known this politician in honor of his roars and the town of Lugo where he was born on November 23, 1922, he would be in a position to achieve his dream of dying in power. After entering the Xunta by the minimum in 1989, thanks to a still controversial count of Ourense and the diaspora, Fraga peaked in 1993 with 43 seats, five above the absolute majority threshold.
From then on, he began to lose one in each election, until the 41 with which he appeared at the polls in 2005, when he dropped to 37. If he had maintained the previous rate, if he had left a seat by call, he would have governed until 2017.
The Fraga 2017 thing turns out to be a game of hyperbolic political science fiction. There is no way of knowing what would have happened after 2002 without the Prestige. And he died on January 15, 2012 in Madrid, in the apartment of one of his five children, Isabel, a doctor by profession. Perhaps the financial crisis would have taken him ahead or the state of perpetual war in the Galician PP did it to prepare his succession or, indeed, he presided over the Xunta until his last day.
About what there is no doubt is that such was his objective. He said it on countless occasions, with phrases such as "you have to die with your boots on" or "great bullfighters die fighting" or when, in his last electoral campaign, he proclaimed his willingness to serve Galicia "until the last breath".
Approaching the figure of Fraga a hundred years after his birth, when the Primo de Rivera dictatorship was beginning, playing number games makes perfect sense, because he was above all a quantitative person. He did not study Mathematics, but rather a doctorate in Law and Politics, but he converted everything into figures. Nothing expressed it better than his pleasure in bringing together thousands of bagpipers in the Plaza del Obradoiro in Compostela to celebrate their inauguration, regardless of the fact that the most Galician of musical instruments is not exactly a drum that sounds well played en masse, but that rather generates a cacophony.
His essay work is enormous, with around a hundred titles, without any of great fame, that condense his thought, especially because they are written in his hasty style, with long strides. At the beginning of the 1990s, at almost 70 years of age and before suffering hip wear, the bodyguards were once seen running to keep up with the pattern, as they were called in the Popular Party, the political force he founded in 1976 in Madrid, under the name of Alianza Popular.
His memoir books were a sales success, especially the first two volumes. They are actually diaries of his daily activities on the public scene, peppered at times with juicy comments and some revelations, but disjointed by their very format and by the lack of the deeper focus that could be expected from his never-discussed great intellectual capacity. This led former president Felipe González to proclaim that Fraga had "the State in his head" and former minister Pío Cabanillas Gallas, to affirm that he was almost a superman in all aspects, "of which one is born in decades."
Although already in democracy he did not speak much about his boss par excellence, the tyrant Francisco Franco, a Galician like him, and he reproached him for his immobility, Fraga also praised his role as a statesman. He seemed called to be Minister of Education, but in 1962 he arrived, at the age of 39, at the Ministry of Information and Tourism, which was actually the Franco regime's propaganda department. Thus, one of his achievements is that even today he is still called by the false name of Information, although he reported little and when he did, such as the execution of the communist Julián Grimau, it was much better that he did not have to. He gained popularity by promoting tourism, the "industry without chimneys", especially with his famous swim on the Almería coast with the American ambassador, after an accident with an American nuclear bomb.
He took advantage of the opportunity that the draconian Press Law of 1936, of war, was still in force, with which, for example, the Government appointed the directors of newspapers. Without being any wonder, the quantum leap over the previous text of his 1966 norm gave him a reformist patina, accentuated with his fall in 1969, confronting the ministers of Opus Dei, and his forced removal from power, with a brief step by the private company and his stay as ambassador in London.
Fraga's dream of leading the transition must have been impossible in reality. And if he had any remote option, he was frustrated by his role as second vice president in the so-called first government of the monarchy, now without Franco, but with the very tough Arias Navarro at the helm, while Fraga, in what is now the Ministry of the Interior, was scary. with phrases like "the street is mine" and his never hidden repressive impulses. His unambitious political reform project failed. And Arias's successor, Adolfo Suárez, took center stage. According to his biographer who attributes that opening role to him, he lost his credit by allying himself with the hard line of Francoism in his new political formation, AP. They were the so-called 'Magnificent Seven', because of the title of a movie of the time and because they were so many hierarchs of the dictatorship. AP were beaten at the polls in 1977 and 1979. Fraga, however, inaccessible to discouragement, earned a role as "father of the Constitution", being one of its editors. And he ended up achieving his goal of forming the embryo of a "natural majority" bringing together the entire right, a union that in recent years has blown up, with Ciudadanos and Vox, after having been the key that allowed the PP to govern alone, now without Fraga, between 1996 and 2004 and from 2011 to 2015.
The journalist Fernando Jáuregui wrote one of the books that best portrays him, titled "the story of an admirable failure." However, those failures fueled Fraga's successes which, even if they were more modest, allowed him to survive by surviving. He did not lead the transition, but he was at the forefront of the constitutional birth. The UCD first crushed him, but he exacted revenge by defeating it in Galicia in 1981 and replacing it in Spain from 1982 as the big conservative party. He did not go beyond the head of the opposition, swept away by Felipe González in 1982 and 1986, but he found his place in Galicia, in the Xunta. There he satisfied his desire to be a statesman and where, in the face of his past denying any decentralization and the use of his own language, he even became more autonomous and more Galician, for example, than Alberto Núñez Feijóo later became. And even less restrictive with freedom of expression, although it was quite so.
"Don Mauel, stop attacking women and fags. Wait for the elections to pass," his 2005 campaign manager urged him desperately. Paradoxically, the man of censorship under Francoism invoked his right to freedom of expression to say what he wanted. He was a character from another time, the one who had already raged against condoms in the 80s. He suffered great health ailments, impossible to hide after his dramatic collapse in the Parliament court in October 2004.
Despite the fact that the best result was obtained in 1993. In 2001, barely a year before the Prestige, Fraga had reached his nirvana. His two rivals, BNG and PsdeG, were tied for seats and were vying to join him. He even maintained a surprisingly good relationship, from professor to professor, with the nationalist Xosé Manuel Beiras, who shortly before called him "the Fraga plague" because of the book by Albert Camus, and "Fragagá" because of his age. For the first time, no one disputed his legitimacy anymore, despite his dictatorial origin. Until with the Prestige he went into free fall. He lost an election for the first time to the sum of PSOE and BNG, the municipal ones in 2003, which were followed by the general ones in 2004, with the socialist victory of Rodríguez Zapatero, a prelude to an autonomic defeat from which not a single system saved him. very favorable election
In Fraga's head, marked by his very strict Basque-French mother, María Iribarne, the idea of a withdrawal did not fit. "I am a bicycle, if I stop I fall," he argued. And Mariano Rajoy, popular president, limited himself to demanding that in 2004 he appoint vice presidents. Falling in 2005, he backed out of the succession battle for him. He told himself that he supported the native candidate, Xosé Manuel Barreiro, but months before, as had always happened before, he sided with Calle Génova, anointing Feijóo as first vice president.
The memory of Fraga fades today, although the videos of his outbursts are somewhat popular on YouTube, like a hilarious one scolding the collaborator who wanted to straighten his tie on a television set. Even in Galicia there is less and less talk about him, as was seen in the 2020 campaign or in these later years. However, autonomy is shaped by him, with the recovery of the pilgrimage to Santiago, the Xacobeo, as his great achievement, together with the consolidation of self-government, as well as the fact of being the only president with a country project that he executed , regardless of its perverse effects, such as promoting caciquismo. On the negative side, he also highlights the wasting of the European manna for an economic leap and the low-quality democracy that he bequeathed.
Fraga's greatest disciple, even if they ended fatally, was José Manuel Romay Beccaría, who spent 20 years with him until he became a minister with Aznar. Romay was Feijóo's teacher, thus becoming an indirect student of Fraga, until between 2003 and 2005 he was number two in the Xunta and the boss's teaching was already direct. In these last fateful weeks at the headquarters on Calle Génova, at the headquarters inaugurated by Fraga, the ghost of the boss seems to have appeared to Feijóo, with the risk of not reaching the presidency of the Government as Rajoy did. That continues to be the great question of the third Galician at the head of the PP, will it be like Fraga or like Rajoy?
Fraga is hardly talked about anymore, but 100 years after his birth, he is still there, underlying. Without him, neither recent Spain nor, above all, Galicia can be well understood.