One day a week, every week, an elegant and discreet old man parks his motorcycle in the vicinity of the Ave María soup kitchen, near the Jacinto Benavente square, in Madrid's Lavapiés neighborhood. Outside, two queues advance, one of individuals who come to breakfast and another with families. In the afternoons they offer sandwiches, yogurt and fruits. The dining room is run by Father Paulino Alonso, a Trinitarian priest who combines his work at the head of this institution created in 1611 with his evening work in the prison of Soto del Real, where he serves as chaplain. Located at number 4 Doctor Cortezo Street, owned by the Royal Congregation of Slaves of the Sweet Name of Mary, the motto of the dining room is categorical. 400 years giving bread and love. It is maintained thanks to the donations of the people of Madrid and the work of the volunteers.

It was there, in the prison where many of the most mediatic prisoners in this country ended up -Sandro Rosell, Oriol Junqueras, Ignacio González, Gerardo Díaz Ferrán or Luis Bárcenas-, that Paulino Alonso met Rodrigo Rato, former minister of economy in the governments of José María Aznar, former director of the International Monetary Fund and former president of Bankia.

Known for his bonhomie, for his selfless dedication to the inmates, whoever they are, without paying attention to credentials or giving more importance to his record, Paulino forged with Rato a friendship that they have maintained. Two years after leaving prison, where he was serving a sentence of four and a half years for the case of the black cards, also acquitted in the case of the IPO of Bankia, Rato has crystallized his commitment to social work championed by the priest.

"If you can't come, make up the day"

Unlike his therapy in the Prison Fellowship of Spain (CONCAES), where he distributed food among the poor and attended a reintegration course for convicted criminals, on the advice of Penitentiary Institutions, the former minister with the Ave Maria dining room is purely altruistic. He comes of his own free will. "He realized that reality," explains Paulino, "he understood that there were many people who needed, and needed him, and that is why he has been able to collaborate. Not only in prison, but also now outside, because here he works every week, one day a week he comes to serve the dining room. And he hands out, he scrubs, makes sandwiches or whatever it takes." The priest underlines Rodrigo Rato's commitment. "He never fails, not a week, not one, and if, for whatever reason, he can never come, then he makes up the day."

Crónica accompanies Father Paulino through the rooms of the Ave Maria, among stacks of meticulously arranged cans, boxes of fruit and other food. In his office we evoke the social work of a man who was king of the world, minister with several governments of José María Aznar, aspiring to succeed him, former director of the International Monetary Fund and former president of Bankia.

This Wednesday Rato publishes a book, Hasta aquí hemos llegó (Editorial Península), co-written with his wife, the journalist Alicia González Vicente, where he details, in the very first person, the chronicle of his rise to the top of the economy, when he cleaned the accounts and took Spain out dancing around the world, and his subsequent fall, overwhelmed by the perfect storm of the economic crisis and judicial scandals. The man with the throaty voice, the all-powerful banker, ended up becoming public enemy number one, in a cell of Soto del Real, scapegoat of an avalanche of anger, with the risk premium skyrocketing and thousands of companies in bankruptcy.

The volunteers with whom Rodrigo Rato collaborates

Is it a settling of accounts of who was about to be the successor of Aznar instead of Rajoy with his former party colleagues and with Spanish society? "I accept my mistakes, but someone has to tell some things. They can be illustrative," he says verbatim in his book.

"I think he is a committed person," says Paulino, "someone has seen and felt the need for men and women who need helping hands." The priest, all discretion, will not tell us what day Rato is coming. But he is clear that in Soto del Real the prince of ministers, "has seen reality, the other, that of the forgotten, and when you get there, in a reality that you have never seen, and you feel bad, poor, when you feel that everything you had has not served you at all, because there Rato and the rest of famous prisoners are one more, they live as one more, they do not have any kind of privilege, then, when they see that being wonderful suddenly they find themselves in such a hard situation, because if they have a little sensitivity, as is the case of Rato, what I will do, to overcome the situation a little, will be to reach out and help others. "

Obviously, he will say, prison is very hard for everyone, I do not wish it on his worst enemy. But let's see, of course, "for someone like Rodrigo Rato possibly more. Think that we are talking about someone accustomed, for example, to go to good restaurants and hotels, who was considered head of state, when he presided over the IMF, and suddenly find himself with a metal tray in the dining room, queuing ...", says Rodrigo Rato's confidant. Anyway, Paulino is a little tired that the press always interrogates about the star prisoners. He understands the media glitter, but he would like the media to also investigate the other inmates, the junkies, the AIDS patients, away from the media radar and the slightly hysterical hegemony of social networks.

But "whoever they are, they all lack the most important thing, I don't care if we talk about Rodrigo Rato, Rosell or a drug addict accustomed to coming and going, they lack freedom, and logically they appreciate that someone brings them the air of the street. There the embrace is the most important, human warmth is needed, and that someone transmits to them, between the walls, that they are not garbage, that they are human beings".

By this time in the morning the hunger queues are over. Inside the dining room, volunteers scrub, clean and tidy. You have to classify the donations and leave everything ready for the next service. In the Ave Maria there is no other famous volunteer. At least two other famous people, who passed through Soto del Real, help elsewhere.

And no, he insists, Rodrigo Rato is not hiding. He comes with his bike and tries to be one more. The other volunteers know who he is, recognize him and treat him with no protocol other than that imposed by camaraderie. "He has committed and delivers. For me it is an example to imitate. And I appreciate him, we are united by a friendship, perhaps also because by coming every week the friendship is strengthened."

So far we have come, by Rodrigo Rato, it is already on sale. You can buy it here

  • Rodrigo Rato
  • Black Cards
  • Petrobras Case

According to the criteria of The Trust Project

Learn more