Jorge Rodríguez, in a street of Ontinyent, Valencian municipality of which he is mayor, last Friday. Monica Torres
Jorge Rodríguez says that when he entered the dungeon in Valencia he thought he was in a waiting room. There was only one bench running, not a bed like in his town, Ontinyent (Valencia). It was 2018 and he was one of the most promising socialist politicians. He presided over the Diputación de Valencia without having turned forty and Pedro Sánchez, the leader of his party, had just won the motion of censure based on the fight against corruption that would lead him to the presidency of the Government. Things looked good until the police broke into his house while he was showering in the early morning of June 27 of that year. It was the beginning of the so-called Alquería case.
In a spectacular police operation, of those that appear in all the news, he was arrested for the alleged crimes of prevarication, embezzlement and falsification of documents, for hiring "outside the law" people related or belonging to the PSPV-PSOE and Compromís in a company of the institution with a loss of 1.1 million euros to the public coffers, According to the Prosecutor's Office. There were 13 more detainees. Last Tuesday, the Audiencia of Valencia acquitted them of all charges, two days after Rodríguez revalidated the mayoralty of Ontinyent with his own party, La Vall Ens Uneix, and achieved results that place him as a key person to decide who will govern the Diputación that he presided over until he resigned after his arrest one night: or his former colleagues of the PSPV-PSOE (in what would be the most important Valencian institution in the hands of the left, after the elections of 28M) or the PP and Vox.
Sitting in the Borinot Bistro, next to the City Hall of Ontinyent, Rodríguez, 44, smiles. It is Friday, June 2, there are a few minutes left to confirm that the vote of the provincial deputy of Ens Uneix is decisive to undo the tie between the two blocks. The mayor gets up to hug a young man who congratulates him on his acquittal and victory (52%). He doesn't stop saying hello. He is in a good mood, when he does not enter into the "pain and helplessness" of his five years of judicial ordeal, of his psychiatric and psychological treatment for anxiety, for insomnia. "2018 was my horrific year. My father died of cancer, I am arrested, I am charged and my mother commits suicide in September. I already had mental health problems, but I think everything that happened to me was a factor that influenced him," he says, his crooked expression that mutes when a neighbor calls his attention from the street, tapping the window with the knuckles of one hand and raising his thumb with the other in a gesture of approval.
Jorge Rodríguez receives congratulations for his acquittal and his victory as mayor, in a bar in Ontinyent, last Friday. Monica Torres
The work in the City Council and the support of his partner and the neighbors of the city of 35,000 inhabitants (he obtained more than 60% support in 2019 with his new party) helped him in all this time, he says more calmly. Now he jokes about the anecdote of when a policeman asked him after his arrest, surprised, if he had not noticed that they had been following him for some time, spying on him. Then he connected the dots and remembered that person photographing him too close, him and his then inseparable friend and partner, who was his number two, Rebeca Torró, today acting counselor of Territorial Policy, the woman who sent a letter to the address to Seat and initiated the process that led the installation of the Volkswagen gigafactory to Sagunto.
The relationship between the two broke down after the national PSOE, whose Secretary of Organization was the Valencian José Luis Ábalos, decided in 2019 that Rodríguez could not run for Mayor of Ontinyent, as the Valencian Socialists intended. The summary had just been known, the accusations were serious and the general, regional and municipal elections were about to fall. "They gave me no other way out than to leave before they threw me away," says Rodríguez, who feels "very hurt" by the treatment received by the PSOE and PSPV leadership. "Not everyone," he adds, while his chief of staff, journalist Ricard Gallego, also accused and acquitted, nods. It does not cross his mind to return to the Socialist Party, which did not take long on Tuesday to launch a statement congratulating Rodriguez and the rest of the defendants for their acquittal as soon as the sentence was known. The PP, which was presented as a private accusation and asked for eight years in prison, rules out filing an appeal against the sentence that it considers technically founded. Now, everyone wants your vote. The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office is studying the car.
Jorge Rodríguez looks at the front pages that some newspapers dedicated to him when he was arrested in 2018 in contrast to the first pages about his acquittal. Monica Torres
Rodriguez knows he has the upper hand. Of a reserved nature, this medical student who went to Politics, a career that would mark his life, recognizes it without fuss. Some socialist sources suggest that his appearance as a "bon xic" (good boy) hides an ambitious strategist. The mayor points out that without ambition, "well understood", political practice cannot be explained. Now he wants tranquility, to focus on City Hall. He still considers himself a left-wing person, although ideology does not count so much "when it comes to municipalism". In the party he has founded there are also former militants of the PP. He admits that it would be very difficult for him to support a government in which the extreme right participated, but he does not release a pledge about his decision regarding the Diputación. He only reiterates that his provincial deputy, Natalia Enguix, must have competences in the institution. He lets himself be loved. He has time. The politician who was repudiated five years ago, is now the most desired in Valencia.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
I'm already a subscriber