He never received the proper training, neither in form nor in time, but he was always there. She jumped into the ring of revulsion, in 2018, as a spokesperson for a Unidos Podemos that did not have her for the position, at least not so fast. In less than three months he was already one of the most recognizable faces in the party. Now, in the middle of 2021, he has done it again: first as heir to the ministry of Pablo Iglesias, then as the next leader of the formation.
No one should be surprised that Ione Belarra (Pamplona, 1987) is the face of the new Podemos, which some time ago promised a more feminine and choral direction, yes, without forgetting where they come from. She brings it all together, from the demadrilization until the break with certain taboos on the left: it did not come from the founding nucleus, but from the first batch; It has not been from a leftist militant, but from human rights activism; and she has never been “the promised heir”, but has always been close to the controls.
The first acid test, we mentioned above, occurred in 2018, when her friend and fellow student, Irene Montero, suffered a premature birth. On Belarra, then an unknown deputy spokesperson in Congress, the responsibility suddenly fell to be the voice and face of Unidos Podemos in the Chamber. He also couldn’t forget his tasks like Executive coordinator, which before Vistalegre II seemed more like a political cluster of guerrillas than a true unified party. Now, for the IV edition, it will be your task that the organic waters remain calm. And above with a ministry involved.
Clearly, Belarra will be the next secretary general of United We Can, after the General Citizen Assembly this weekend. He will therefore take the baton of a party that Pablo Iglesias has led with an iron fist for seven years, and it will not be easy. For this, your own candidacy is already a declaration of intent.
From Navarra to Madrid
Belarra was born in Pamplona in 1987, the daughter of a psychologist and a lawyer from Alsasua, where her family ran a bookstore that closed a few years ago. I study in the Claret Larraona, a Christian, concerted and mixed school, where she stood out as a prominent speed skater. The entry into politics and the awakening of consciousness, in this case, would take a little longer than with other leaders on the left. And they came by other means.
It came to him when he was 16, before finishing school, when he began to collaborate with Navarra Youth Red Cross -with time, he would end up leading it- in integration programs for migrants and refugees, mainly of African origin. He found his site and began to study a higher degree of social integration at the IES de Adaptación Social, first, and a career in Psychology at the Complutense University of Madrid, later. The experience changed her forever.
The Government of Spain, then led by the PP of Mariano Rajoy, deported a friend of hers who had just had a child. Since then, Belarra has become more directly involved in active politics with two objectives: to reform the Aliens Law and to close the Internment Centers for Foreigners (CIE). It was then that he ended up in Psychology, and planted his feet in Madrid.
The Psychology colleagues
When Pablo Iglesias delegated the command of the Ministry of Social Rights and Agenda 2030 to Belarra, two versions emerged. The officer spoke of a committed politician, tireless worker and right hand -left- of the general secretary; a natural heir to the position that had earned the medals in discreet but important tasks. The unofficial, which did not correct the previous one, pointed out the good relationship between the minister and Irene Montero, her friend since the days of the university.
Both coincided at the Complutense University of Madrid studying Psychology, and the crush was instantaneous. It started in 2007 and ended it in 2012, and at some point in this segment they became roommates; Montero, a year younger than her, finished it in 2011. It is not that the woman from Pamplona repeated, but that before reaching the classrooms of the Autonomous University of Madrid she had done a Social Integration FP.
They began to be friends from the student movement, in which Montero was already leading the way from the Noam Chomsky Student Association, of marked left tendency, and like representative of the students in the Board of the Faculty. Belarra, on the other hand, was already anticipating the image that she would inherit in Podemos: more timid when facing the gallery, with less focus, but very hard-working behind the scenes.
An acquaintance of Belarra, a member of one of the first Podemos circles, remembers her that first stage in politics as a “committed activist” and “with a lot of knowledge of politics”. In addition, there is also a “conciliatory” character that, although it did not shine then, has ended up being of vital importance for the formation, for example, in order to form the current coalition government, either to agree with PSOE to win the support of Bildu, with whom he maintains a special harmony.
As soon as she finished her degree, Belarra entered the Official Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology, which ended in 2014, the same year she entered Podemos. His thesis supervisor was the professor David Poveda Bicknell, and titled his work Legitimate power and fragmented resistance. Case study of a religious institution for ‘street children’ in Benin. After him, she began a thesis that she would abandon after two years, already as a deputy.
The awakening of Podemos
If Belarra was already predisposed to left-wing activism, and this increased when it coincided with Montero, the involvement and awareness of both would end up taking a turn in the same years of the university with the arrival of the 15M. In fact, the two coincided in the Youth Without a Future demonstration on April 7, 2011, which is considered to be the founding seed of the movement.
Of course, they did not know then that they could dedicate themselves to making a living from politics. Belarra was only an SOS Racismo activist who was not active in any traditional leftist formation, until Podemos arrived. His history of progressive stripes was intimately linked to the fight for the rights of migrants, during his brief stint at the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR) and by various volunteers in Latin America, but little record on the traditional left.
In 2014 he took the step. Met Pablo Iglesias on television, when he was a regular on laSexta Noche, and he started to participate in their game. In a short time, she was appointed head of the Human Rights, Citizenship and Diversity area after accessing the State Citizen Council through primaries. The following year she was head of the list for Navarra and became a deputy. Later, deputy spokesperson and coordinator of the Executive.
It was in this period, during the first legislature in Congress, that a group of young people in Alsasua they attacked two civil guards who were in civilian clothes. The case turned to Spain for whether or not it deserved the label of “terrorist attack”, rejected by the National Court, and for the high penalties for the aggressors, who received sentences of between 2 and 13 years in prison. Belarra, already in Podemos, was one of its main defenders and representatives.
The woman from Pamplona, then a mere deputy, classified the penalties as “one of the greatest injustices of recent years”, and together with Bildu and ERC – along with those who would demonstrate years later against the sentences – invited Congress to the relatives of the detainees. In the photo they shared with Podemos, in addition to Pablo Iglesias, she appears, unknown and in the background, as she has always been, until now.
The future of Belarra
A lot has changed since then. After the coalition government agreement between PSOE and United We Can – of which she was an indispensable part as a negotiator -, she left Congress to form part of the Second Vice Presidency of Social Rights, specifically as Secretary of State for Agenda 2030. The number 2 of Iglesias, and his heir when he hung up the wallet.
Thus, in just seven years, Belarra has gone from being a master’s student to being a government minister and leader of one of the main parties in Spain. She also said goodbye to Navarra, her home, when she bought a 90-square-meter apartment in Vallecas halfway with her boyfriend, Nacho Ramos, who will go on his list to the Podemos primaries.
Now, your responsibilities will be twofold. On the executive side, Belarra is ahead of the development of the Dependency Shock Plan, the Children’s Law – known as Ley Rhodes– and, above all, to be the main purple counterweight to the Socialists. In fact, she has already shown it since her appointment as Secretary of State, especially against Minister Margarita Robles and the vice president Carmen Calvo, with whom he now shares a table in the Government.
On the organic side, the task is even more complicated, although it may not seem like it. In Podemos he will rule, yes, but he will have to re-found a party in free fall with a new direction, more feminine and choral. Also understand with Yolanda Díaz, who will be head of the list of the United We Can coalition and who enjoys a much better image than that of Belarra.
It’s a little ant job. Discreet, behind the scenes, but vitally important to the game. One of those who have always been so good at it.