Galician premier under fire as links to jailed drug smuggler revealed

Photographs emerge of Alberto Núñez Feijóo holidaying with criminal serving 14 years

Spanish newspaper El Pais published photographs of Galician premier Alberto Núñez Feijóo, taken in 1995 and 1996, with Marcial Dorado Baúlde, who is serving a 14-year jail sentence for drug trafficking. Photograph: Reuters

Spanish newspaper El Pais published photographs of Galician premier Alberto Núñez Feijóo, taken in 1995 and 1996, with Marcial Dorado Baúlde, who is serving a 14-year jail sentence for drug trafficking. Photograph: Reuters

Tue, Apr 2, 2013, 05:00

A senior Spanish politician is fending off calls for his resignation after it was revealed that he once had a close relationship with a notorious drug smuggler.

Alberto Núñez Feijóo is the premier of the northwestern region of Galicia and one of the most visible faces in the conservative Partido Popular (PP). On Sunday, El País newspaper published photographs of him, taken in 1995 and 1996, with Marcial Dorado Baúlde, who is serving a 14-year jail sentence for drug trafficking.

Some of the pictures show the two men in swimming trunks, holidaying together aboard Dorado Baúlde’s boat off the coast of Galicia.

“These are just some old photographs and that’s been confirmed by different judicial investigations,” said Mr Núñez Feijóo (51) yesterday.

While he acknowledged the relationship, he insisted it did not lead him to do anything illegal and that he was not aware of his companion’s unlawful activities at the time.

The friendship, he added, while “naive”, had not influenced his political decisions.All the region’s main opposition parties have called for Mr Núñez Feijóo to step down.

“Someone who had these kinds of relationships is unfit to be premier of Galicia,” said Francisco Jorquera, of the Galician Nationalist Party (BNG).

In the period when the photos were taken, Mr Núñez Feijóo was the deputy head of Galicia’s healthcare department and head of the National Health Institute.

In October 2012, he surprised many by winning the Galician regional elections despite the unpopularity of the PP’s leader, prime minister Mariano Rajoy. Even before that victory, the up-and-coming politician was being touted as a possible successor to Mr Rajoy.

But the compromising photographs could deliver a debilitating blow to any such ambitions. Their publication comes on the heels of a massive corruption scandal that has seen allegations the PP ran a slush fund for years, receiving illegal financing from companies and making payments to politicians, including Mr Rajoy.

With other parties also caught up in graft cases, voters’ tolerance is being tested.

A recent poll showed that corruption has become Spaniards’ second-biggest concern, behind unemployment and ahead of the broader economy.