Pedro Quevedo, founding member and Press Secretary of Nueva Canarias since its formation in June 2005, currently deputy mayor of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria City Council and leading candidate for the Congress of Las Palmas for Nueva Canarias, has granted us an interview to convey their political ideas to the citizens and that they value their great dedication for the Canary Islands through their vote on the 28th April in the general elections.
What led you to liaise with politics?
My mother told me that since I was 3 years old, I have always had a taste for politics, which is why I consider myself a very demanding person from a very young age. I have always had two important “bugs” which are medicine and politics.
What should be the qualities of a good mayor?
The main key is not to have personal interests, when you have personal interests then it is impossible. One needs to see politics as an instrument to change reality in the direction that you think things should go and associate it with ideology, which implies the absence of personal interests. The quality of a politician who serves the society in which he is enrolled, from any ideological position, depends on understanding that the reality must be transformed and understanding that process as a continuum, being as it is a process that is not resolved with a Royal Decree-Law Therefore, it is a life commitment and each one regardless of their post should abstain from interests that are purely personal.
What does your role in politics contribute to you right now? Has your life changed after your years of mandate?
I think I have not stopped doing politics since as long as I can remember, since university was already a well-known university “leader” (quotes Pedro Quevedo between laughs). I had already chosen a very demanding career; medicine, so I always considered myself a very studious person something that I do not think is incompatible with my active role in politics, which led me to become the youngest General Secretary of the College of Physicians in Spain for 14 years, I consider it a way of doing politics through medicine. The universal right to healthcare, the creation of the Public Health System … all these battles were taught to us during our time in the College of Physicians which led me to be involved in the press day in and day out, speaking about the rights of patients and of the rights of professionals to be able to practice in dignified conditions, aspects that I believe go hand in hand with politics.
Given all these rights I defended at the time, I was offered several positions in politics that I wanted to reject because medicine required a lot of dedication, that was until the year 2000 when Román Rodríguez made me reconsider accepting the position of Spokesman of the Canary Islands Government, with the high rank of Deputy Minister. So I state that I have been actively involved in politics since the year 2000 until now.
Is it satisfying to serve the people, what aspects have helped you to keep moving forward?
One must have a perspective of what we believe this society should be, for example, we think that the Canary Islands is an essentially abandoned society, to which there has been an absolute lack of sensitivity on behalf of the powers of the State, to the point where we have even labelled some behaviours as neo-colonial at that time. Now, what it is showing us is the need to identify the real problems of country, what we believe they are. Among them we detected the worst Public Health System of the Spanish State, a completely deficient Educational System, the Dependency System analyzed by the experts is practically non-existent, the connectivity within the Canaries is a very serious problem that we have begun to resolve with a 75% discount on plane and boat tickets between islands and the Mainland, etc. Therefore, Nueva Canarias has sat down to think what this society needs to be placed in the average standards of development of the Spanish State and, from there, we have formulated our whole policy.
What state was the town hall in when you started your term?
This city hall has had the misfortune of being governed for more than 20 years by the Popular Party with an interval of 4 years of the Socialist Party, but that did not help much either. Therefore, when we arrived at this city hall our very difficult first challenge was to show that our tripartite had a future. When we talk about public policies there is an essential difference between two great options. One of them is to promote public services as a service to citizens, or else, use the smallest public authorities so that everything is done through the Market.
Well, out of these two choices we have opted for the first one, since we believe that public administrations have to be powerful instruments to correct deficits, errors, failure of justice and the clear development problems of a powerful municipality that is Las Palmas of Gran Canaria.
At this moment in time we have found that the essentials have been abandoned, starting with social policies and people who were having a hard time. A big city always has great problems. There are still people that remain in the social exclusion group that concerns the city council, so we must act in that direction as well as in the direction of improving the heritage protection, the problems people encounter from a municipal point of view such as mobility.
I think that Nueva Canarias have shown that the city hall can direct decisive transformations in the neighbourhoods, so, regarding the mobility issue, we are carrying out an urban transformation of the city. Regarding tourism, we have wanted to promote environmental tourism, urban tourism with cultural activities, history, art …
Another very important issue is the Public Patrimonial Law, it is shocking how the deterioration of this heritage has been allowed, that is why we are acting on this problem and many more. So I think what we have done is looked at the municipality and the city from a different aspect, and I think it shows.
“Some gave us 3 months and optimists gave us 6 months, look where we are now”
Why should the people vote for you in the up-coming elections?
When we have had the opportunity to prove ourselves and be decisive, we have shown the Canary Islands are always in our thoughts and we have achieved an historical transformation that this society has been claiming for more than 40 years. Achievements such as obtaining a 75% discount on plane and boat tickets between the islands and the mainland, 100% unlimited aid for the transport of goods, the recovery of the Canary Islands Comprehensive Employment Plan, the allocation of budget lines against poverty, the issue of water desalination for agricultural irrigation (pending payment by the Socialist Party).
Nueva Canaria can say that when we had the opportunity to vote, 176 of us stood our ground in Madrid and “uprooted” from the government achievements that would have been unthinkable if we were not present.
Therefore, what we would like to transmit to the citizens is to continue voting for us for the following reasons; first we have proven that we work for the interests of this land and, second, being as there are no Canarian representatives in Madrid, the succeeded achievements up to date, an historical event, could be backtracked if there will be no one to defend them. So, we truly believe that we deserve the support of the people.
“If there is not a strong Canarian voice in Madrid that only complies to the interests of the Canary Islands, all the achievements made so far could regress”
What does your party contribute to the people that other parties don’t?
I think there is a clear issue, and that is that Nueva Canaria is a party that was born from the ground up, it is a local based party based on a very strong municipal establishment that has united the party to the roots of the people.
“This is a down to earth party, and that is our strength”
What are your plans for the future for the city?
I think that at this point people know who is who, and they cannot be fooled, we already have enough experience to let people know what to expect. We have shown that we can speak with whomever is needed to defend the interests of this land, without losing our identity.
How do you see the political future in general?
Right now, there is a lack of quality in Spanish politics that is quite frightening, there is an aggressiveness, a group of young leaders, but with very aggressive ideas which leads to a constant fight for power. I think that none of the members of these parties consider health, education, labour reform, in short, the common logical interests for which other parties opt for. For all this, we must focus on this land and defend its interests, because what is clear is that in Spain the absolute majorities have ended and, for that reason, we have an opportunity. Because if there is no absolute majority, we can be decisive again.