Two Catalans in Spain's new Socialist-led coalition cabinet

Spanish president Pedro Sánchez officially presents all 22 senior ministers, including Salvador Illa and Manuel Castells, after a week of announcements

Pedro Sánchez and members of his party applaud after congress confirms him as president on January 7, 2020 (by Jordi Vidal)
Pedro Sánchez and members of his party applaud after congress confirms him as president on January 7, 2020 (by Jordi Vidal) / Cristina Tomàs White

Cristina Tomàs White | Barcelona

January 12, 2020 01:43 PM

Following a week-long trickle of announcements regarding who would be at the helm of which ministry and vice presidency, on Sunday Spanish president Pedro Sánchez officially presented the 11 women and 11 men who will make up the country's first coalition cabinet since the 1930s to King Felipe VI and then at a press conference.

Of Sánchez's 22 senior ministers, 17 are Socialists, 4 are of Unidas Podemos, and 1 is an independent proposed by Catalan allies of Unidas Podemos, En Comú Podem. The left-wing executive will be composed of 4 vice presidencies and 18 ministries.

And of these ministries, two of them will be headed by Catalans: Salvador Illa, who will become the Socialist health minister, and sociologist Manuel Castells, the new higher education minister.



Salvador Illa | Health minister | La Roca del Vallès, Barcelona, 1966

The former secretary for the Catalan branch of the Socialist party will take on the role of Spain's health minister during Pedro Sánchez's presidency.

Illa, who participated in the decisive Socialist-Esquerra Republicana negotiations that secured the pro-independence party's key congressional abstention enabling Sánchez's confirmation as president, has a degree in philosophy from the University of Barcelona and a master's in business management from IESE.

The Catalan Socialist was the mayor of his home town from 1995 to 2005, has held various Catalan government as well as Barcelona city council posts, and was named party secretary in 2016.



Manuel Castells | Higher education minister | Hellín, Albacete, 1942

Castells, whose name was put forth by the Catalan capital's mayor, Ada Colau of Barcelona en Comú, is a highly-acclaimed sociologist who will head the first ministry exclusively in charge of higher education since 1981.

The new minister most recently taught at the Open University of Catalonia, where he also headed the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute for years. An anti-Franco activist in his youth, Castells went into exile in Paris in the 60s, becoming the University of Paris' youngest professor at 24.

Castells participated in the May 68 French student movement before eventually heading to California, teaching at UC Berkeley for 24 years among many other shorter stints at equally distinguished universities including MIT, Oxford, and Cambridge.


Spain's other new coalition cabinet members are as follows:


Carmen Calvo | First vice president for the presidency and relations with the Cortes | Cabra, Córdoba, 1957

Calvo was the former (and sole) vice president in Sánchez's previous government, as well as the presidency, relations with the Cortes and equality minister. Calvo, who has an undergraduate degree in public law and a Ph.D. in constitutional law, was also a minister in José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's cabinet from 2004 to 2007.


Pablo Iglesias | Second vice president for social affairs and the 2030 Agenda | Madrid, 1978

Anti-austerity Unidas Podemos party co-founder Iglesias is a former Complutense University political science professor and political advisor turned politician. Host of internet show La Tuerka, Iglesias will now be in charge of ensuring the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals are achieved in Spain.


Nadia Calviño | Third vice president for the economy | A Coruña, 1968

Calviño was the economy and enterprise minister for Sánchez's caretaker government. The former political economy and financial systems professor at Madrid's Complutense University was also the European Commission's Director-General for Budget from 2014 to 2018.  


Teresa Ribera | Fourth vice president for the environment and demographic challenges | Madrid, 1969

A former public law associate professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid, Ribera also has a degree in constitutional law and political science. She has ample experience in environment-related posts dating back to 1996, including as Spain's secretary of state for climate change (2008-2011) and as a Stockholm Environment Institute board member.


José Luis Ábalos | Transport, mobility, urban agenda minister | Torrent, Valencia, 1959

Former development minister Ábalos, who also participated in the Socialist-Esquerra Republicana talks alongside Illa and congressional spokesperson Adriana Lastra, will now be in charge of transport, mobility, and urban agenda. He has previously held posts in the Valencian Generalitat government and the Valencia city council.


Isabel Celaá | Education and professional training minister | Bilbao, 1949

Sánchez's caretaker government's spokesperson and education and professional training minister will keep her ministerial post while losing her spokesperson one to María Jesús Montero. Celaá, who has degrees in English and law, was involved in Basque politics before making her way to the Spanish arena.  


Juan Carlos Campo Moreno | Justice minister| Seville, 1961

Campo Moreno, a judge and Socialist MP for Cádiz, joins the cabinet for the first time. He was a member of the General Council of the Judiciary between 2001 and 2008 as well as Spain's secretary of state for justice from 2009 to 2011 and has worked for the Andalusian government.


Carolina Darias | Territorial policy and civil service minister| Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1965

Hailing from the Canary Islands, Darias is another new Socialist member of the cabinet, though she has long been a party member. Darias was the Spanish government sub-delegate to Las Palmas between 2004 and 2008 before becoming the government delegate from 2008 and 2011. In 2015 she became the first woman to be named president of the Canary Islands parliament.


Yolanda Díaz | Labor minister | Fene, A Coruña, 1971

Podemos MP Díaz will become the coalition government's new labor minister. The Galician politician has a degree in law from the University of Santiago de Compostela and is well-versed in labor rights and workers' movements.


Pedro Duque | Science and innovation minister | Madrid, 1963

Spanish astronaut and aeronautical engineer Duque worked for the European Space Agency for years before becoming Sánchez's science, innovation and universities minister in 2018, a position he will continue to have almost entirely in the coalition cabinet except for that Castells will now be in charge of higher education.


José Luis Escrivá Belmonte | Social security, inclusion, and migration minister | Albacete, 1960

Escrivá Belmonte, chair of Spain's Independent Authority for Fiscal Responsibility since 2014 and of the EU Independent Fiscal Institutions Network, this will be the economist's first time in politics.


Alberto Garzón | Consumer affairs minister | Logroño, 1985

The economist, who describes himself as an "activist and human rights defender," is a member of the Communist Party of Spain and United Left whose party joined forces with Podemos. He became well known in Spain following the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent popularity of the 15-M anti-austerity movement due to a blog he still occasionally writes for.


Arancha González Laya | Foreign affairs, EU, and cooperation minister | San Sebastián, 1969

Laya is currently an assistant secretary-general of the United Nations and the executive director of the International Trade Centre. She was also the European Commission spokesperson for trade between 2002 and 2005.


Fernando Grande-Marlaska | Interior minister| Bilbao, 1962

Grande-Marlaska will continue on as Spain's interior minister for a second term having previously worked as a judge both in Cantabria and the Basque Region as well as at the National Court. As the head of the Spanish police forces, there have been tense moments between him and pro-independence parties in disagreement with the causes and consequences of the unrest following the Supreme Court sentencing of the independence leaders as well as due to his decision to only visit injured police officers during his October 2019 trip to Barcelona.


Reyes Maroto | Industry, commerce and tourism minister | Medina del Campo, Valladolid, 1973

Maroto remains Spain's industry, commerce and tourism minister in the new coalition executive. Before taking up this post following the ousting of Mariano Rajoy as the People's Party's president of Spain in June 2018, she was the Socialist's economy, budget, and finance spokesperson in the Assembly of Madrid.


Irene Montero | Equality minister | Madrid, 1988

The youngest minister in the new cabinet, Podemos' Irene Montero will become the minister for equality. She has a degree in psychology and is known for her women's rights advocacy.  


María Jesús Montero | Finance minister and government spokesperson | Seville, 1966

María Jesús Montero, no relation to the above, was already the finance minister in Sánchez's caretaker government, although she also has a background in medicine. She has previously held posts in the Andalusian government and as an Andalusian MP.


Luis Planas| Agriculture, fisheries and food minister | Valencia, 1952

Planas became agriculture, fisheries and food minister in June 2018 as well as territorial policy and civil service minister in May 2019, although he will on stay on as the former this new term. He has had a long political career, having been a member of, for example, the 1982 experts committee formed prior to Spain's adhesion to the European Commission, a Socialist MEP between 1986 and 1993, or even the permanent representative of Spain to the European Union from 2010 to 2011.


Margarita Robles | Defense minister | León, 1956

Robles, who graduated with a law degree from the University of Barcelona, will stay on as Spain's defense minister this term. Robles was the first woman to preside over Barcelona's Provincial Court and was a National Court judge from 1996 to 2004 before heading to the Supreme Court.


José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes | Culture and sports minister| Valencia, 1968

Uribes, who previously served as the Spanish government delegate to Madrid as well as spokesperson for the Socialist parliamentary group in the Madrid Assembly is also a philosophy of law and political philosophy professor at Carlos III University. After it was announced that he would be in charge of heading the culture and sports ministry, a 2017 Tweet was unearthed in which he stated that speaking of "exile" or "political prisoners" to describe the situation of pro-independence politicians was "proof of delirium, ignorance, or insensitivity," prompting criticism from the pro-independence camp.