Now is the time ... of the “Sorayos”

By now regular followers of the political sections in the media must have heard and read the noun “sorayo” more than once. This is used to refer to some of the politicians with the greatest share of power within the Popular Party government. These “sorayos” are group of people between 40 and 45 years old who have grown politically (and “powerfully” via the BOE --Official State Bulletin-- jobs) in the shadow of the current vice-president of the Spanish government (Soraya Sáez de Santamaria, hence the nickname).

To simplify, they can be divided into 3 groups. The first includes the Nerds (made up of high-level civil servants such as Commercial Technicians (the brothers Álvaro and Alberto Nadal --known as the Genovese), the Diplomats (Teresa Lizaranzu), and the State Lawyers (Jaime Pérez Renovales, Leopoldo González Echenique --who recently resigned--, and Soraya Sáenz herself); in this latter case, all are from the same class of 1996 known, for obvious reasons, as “The Glorious One”. The second group, the “Pedigreed”, is made up of people of the same generation that enjoy a family past (in some cases Franco-ist) of a certain standing --examples include Alfonso Alonso and Jorge Moragas. The third group, which could be called The Welcomed, consists of those who are of an older generation with an established political career, who, for their profile as civil servants and especially for their strategy of seeking shelter in the new powerful “family” within the PP, have become close to the Vice-President. The new Justice Minister, Rafael Catalá (Civil State Administrator), Cristóbal Montoro (Professor of Treasury), and Fátima Báñez fall into this category.

Seventy-five percent of the “sorayos” are high-ranking state officials. All high state officials have a certain prestige as proven by having achieved their position. Special reference should be made to the State Lawyers (some 700 throughout Spain, and 20-25 within the Rajoy government), an elite corps that is currently leading the design of the future of the State and of our own nation, Catalonia. I have had the opportunity of working as a lawyer with State Lawyers, and they are certainly brilliant people in the exercise of their professions, as much for their knowledge as for their way of interpreting the application of the rules. Theirs is, by far, the most stringent state licensing examination (some 500 topics) in Spain. Having said that, you should not focus too heavily on appearances, given that the licensing exam procedure has a significant subjective component, since a large part of this body is also composed of people with a very specific (Spanish) lineage, many of whom can be found working in the current government.

Once licensed (with an initial salary of around 80,000€), many of them dedicate themselves to jumping from one official state (BOE) position to another (with salaries ranging from 80,000€ to 100,000€). They are very Cartesian, and very much appreciated for their work in the private sector, as they know the origin of the rules, their meaning, and the best interpretation of a rule to use before a judge to defend the interests of a client.

However, it is clear that such a technical approach cannot be the driving force behind the solutions to the political conflicts of any country. This is the root of the entire problem with the Catalan process: the stone wall (of jurisprudence) we have been bumping into since 2012. You only have to read the complaint of unconstitutionality (94 pages) against the Catalan Law of Consultations brought by the “General Sub-directorate for Constitutional and Human Rights”, led by State Lawyer Marta Silva de Lapuerta (also a member of the “Glorious” class), the daughter of a Franco-era minister and a very good example of the officials described above, which speaks of “violations of devolved powers”, “responsibilities exclusive to the State”, and of “omission of authorization by the State”. Former classmates are squabbling over the future of Catalonia: Soraya intervenes and Marta Silva writes the complaint --it all stays in house.

In this “magic circle” of Cartesian intelligence there is no room for emotional intelligence --that is, the abilities (not legal, but psychological understanding of others) that were preached by Daniel Goleman in the 1990s. The presence of the “sorayos” is no coincidence: they know how France --the most centralized state in Europe-- works, and how those from the “École Nationale d’Administration” are the ones who have led the country for 70 years. The best line of defense against a declining, devolved Spain is a bureaucratic body that writes the laws and controls the legal system. I would recommend that they read what Paul Arden wrote in his book “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be”: “It’s wrong to be right because people who are right” (jurisprudence) “are rooted in the past, and the old situations are probably different from the present ones¨, in order to understand that history is passing before their eyes, and they haven’t realized it yet.