Freelance Spain
Spaniards for the 21st century

Pedro J. Ramírez
Journalist and editor-in-chief the daily newspaper El Mundo.

Pedro J Ramirez, photo by Larry ManginoTo his admirers, newspaper editor Pedro J Ramírez is hardworking, honest and the very model of a crusading journalist. To his many enemies, he is sanctimonious, incurably vane, insufferably arrogant... but hardworking. His paper, El Mundo, has been instrumental in exposing some of the biggest scandals in recent Spanish history.

Ramírez was born in Logrońo, La Rioja, in 1952. After studying journalism at the University of Navarra, in 1973 he went to the United States to teach Spanish literature at the Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania. His stay in the US coincided with the Watergate scandal and its coverage by the Washington Post, and he became fascinated with the role the media have to play in a modern society.

Back in Spain, he worked on the staff of the conservative daily ABC and in 1980, at age 28, he was appointed editor of the daily newspaper, Diario 16, which at the time was selling 15,000 copies. He soon put his ideas into practice, bringing about a dramatic increase in circulation. Under his editorship the paper started to investigate the Spanish government's link to GAL, a shady organization set up to fight a dirty war against ETA terrorists but which ended up kidnapping or murdering people who had nothing to do with the Basque separatist organization. He obviously touched a raw nerve, for he was fired from Diario 16 at the beginning of 1989. Taking most of the paper's top journalists with him, he set out to start El Mundo, which was launched in October 1989. El Mundo found a ready audience among Spanish urbanites disenchanted with the governing socialist establishment, and competed with the leading Spanish daily El País, whose coverage at the time suffered from an ill-advised pro-government bias.

El Mundo was instrumental in uncovering various juicy scandals which shook the Spanish establishment, involving among others the head of the Guadia Civil, Luis Roldán (charged with embezzlement of public funds) and Mariano Rubio, the governor of the Bank of Spain (fired for insider trading and tax fraud). And although no connection was ever proven between the socialist premier Felipe González and GAL, the socialists' loss of credibility resulted in their defeat in the 1996 general elections.

Having contributed to the downfall of the charismatic González, Ramírez is ever searching for fresh causes celebres that might merit his paper's attention. In 2000 his crosshairs settled on a former friend and informer, Telefonica's chief executive Juan Villalonga, whose business practises were questioned by El Mundo (Villalonga was forced to resign in July 2000).

In spite of the fact that his newspaper has been a great media support for the politics of the government during the conservative period, But J. Ramirez opposed to the war of Iraq and to the support of Aznar to Bush's administration, in one of the editorials. Nevertheless this has not supposed at all a deterioration of the relation between El Mundo and the Conservative Party.

Pedro J Ramirez is married to the fashion designer Agatha Ruiz de Prada, famous for her outlandish creations.

Photograph © Larry Mangino

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