Artists and Intellectuals Ditch Zapatero

Many Spanish artists and intellectuals have stopped supporting president José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero´s Government. They feel disenchanted with PSOE, the center left-wing party of which Mr. Zapatero is the leader and some of them have decided to vote Izquierda Unida (IU), the main left-wing party. According to Soledad Giménez, a Spanish pop singer, "PSOE has left us to our fate". "It is impossible to be optimistic in these crisis times", says rock singer, Miguel Ríos. However, they strongly supported Mr. Zapatero, along with others artists and intellectuals, during his first term of office (2004-2008). They agreed with many important PSOE initiatives, such as withdrawing Spanish troops from Iraq and passing the gay marriage law.
They were so proud of their president that they decided to create a support group for his reelection in 2008. "It was a spontaneous movement and we didn't think through the consequences. We just felt that it was necessary to fight against the extreme right", says Soledad Giménez. These artists were known as "the eyebrow group". They used the index finger to copy Zapatero's facial expression, characterized by his pointy eyebrow. Popular names such as singer Joaquín Sabina, film director Pedro Almodóvar, Venezuelan writer Boris Izaguirre, actress Pilar Bardem or the astronaut José Duque made a short film impersonating the eyebrow sign.

After Zapatero's reelection, things changed. The economic crisis deeply hit Spain and the socialist government had to take some conservative measures to keep the European Union satisfied. Those measures translated into economic cuts, which were not welcomed by artists and intellectuals. For instance, the government rose retirement age from 65 to 67 years old. "Zapatero's biggest mistake was to make right-wing economic and political decisions and then tell people that they were actually left-wing measures", argues Almudena Grandes, a renowned Spanish writer and columnist of El País newspaper. Moreover, PSOE promised them a law to protect the intellectual property. After trying several times and among a great deal of controversy, they were unable to do it. "Musicians felt completely abandoned", says Soledad Giménez. Zapatero disappointed many of his voters and the shadow cast by the crisis settled pessimism among the population.

The sense of union that artists and intellectuals showed in 2008 has now disappeared: some of them started to support other parties, and a few of them stayed with PSOE. The rest felt it was better to keep a low profile. The party that has obtained a higher benefit out of all this disappointment is Izquierda Unida. Some of the artists who did the eyebrow sign in front of the TV cameras four years ago declare themselves as Izquierda Unida's voters today. "Spain needs politicians who fight for the benefit of society and Gaspar Llamazares (one of the visible heads of IU) does", says Alberto San Juan, a young Spanish actor who has participated in a campaign video for IU.

Thanks to the support they are receiving, IU could see their number of seats in Parliament rise, according to the latest surveys. Most likely, they will manage to get at least five MP's, which would allow them to form a parliamentary group. And forming a parliamentary group means more power. Ramón Luque, IU's campaign manager, is happy about the party's prospects. He considers that left-wing ideologies can only evolve if they go hand in hand with culture. "Some of the artists didn't think through when they voted Mr Zapatero". Now, in the actual campaign, some of them have disappeared. They didn't take part of any videos or political meetings. What's the reason? Are they angry with PSOE? The public opinion doesn´t know and PSOE´s office didn't answer our enquiries to clarify that. The only thing we know for sure is that Zapatero's eyebrow doesn´t have a face anymore.