Interview with Roberto Centeno

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Mr Centeno is the former CEO of the oil company CAMPSA and also worked as the general director of the Spanish energy company ENAGAS. He has also been an Economy professor at la Escuela de Minas of the UPM. Currently, he participates in both written and broadcast media, writing articles for El Confidencial and Alerta Digital among others. Lately, he has worked as an adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign to attract the Latino vote during the 2016 Presidential Race.

What professional activity do you develop today?

RC: Well, I have worked all my life in the oil sector, as CAMPSA’s CEO, and nowadays in an Italian oil company, which belongs to the Moratti family. At same time, I am a professor at the Escuela de Minas of the UPM.

Which was the main reason that motivated you to collaborate in Donald Trump’s campaign for the Presidency of the US?  

RC: At the beginning of July, a friend, closely related to Texan oil sector and with whom I had worked in the past, proposed me to collaborate in Donald Trump’s campaign to the Presidency of the United States. My job was to advise him on how to attract the Hispanic vote, of huge importance in several key states and Trump’s major Achilles heel. I accepted this offer because I believed in his economic policy. Although I strongly reject the way in which he expresses himself, which is certainly not the most appropriate.

I must say that in some areas he has listen to me but certainly in other aspects he has not. We must have on mind, that something which all his team knew was that Trump always does what he wants and his words and actions are guided by his instinct.

Do you believe that the Trump we saw during his campaign is the same as the President-elect Trump?

No, Trump has led a campaign targeted to all those who felt unsatisfied and discontent, to those who felt disappointed with the system and the country’s actual situation. With his message, he has connected better than anyone with a vast part of the population which felt let down by Obama’s government. Trump has been really intelligent in the sense that he has spread a very demagogic message which has been really effective. For example, Trump said he was going to stop illegal immigration, though to achieve this he was going build a wall along the US-Mexico border and expel 11 million illegal immigrants. Certainly, these are very extreme and impacting messages which obviously are impossible to accomplish, but were impacting and effective enough to convince his voters. Personally, I persuaded him not to promise things which he was not going to be able to achieve. To sum up, he has used a deliberately provoking and impacting language that has nourished many headlines in his speech against the establishment. Despite this, Trump has now made a 180-degree change. Since his first speech as President-elect he has radically changed his tone and some of his promises.

Do you think that public-opinion surveys and election forecasters misread the outcome of the presidential race? Did you believe in Trumps victory before the electoral results came out?

RC: Most of the polls were managed by the establishment powers and transmitted what people wanted to hear. The American media did not understand how deep the discontent of the working and middle class was. Since last August I was convinced of his victory because I’m aware of the discontent that Europe is experiencing too. It was also predictable the result of the Brexit referendum in the UK. Orban’s victory in Hungary also reflects not populism but that people are fed up of the fact that children are living worse than their parents did in the past, because of the establishment politicians incapacity to give solutions to their major problems.

Which changes will we see in relation to US Foreign Policy?

RC: His priority is the destruction of ISIS. First, he has warned Saudi Arabia and Qatar to stop funding this terrorist organization. Secondly, he is going to end with ISIS dedicating 30 000 terrestrial forces with the help of Putin in the offensive. He believes that this combined action will defeat ISIS in weeks.

It is outstanding his intention to improve US-Russia relations. His approach to Putin can reshape the order of the world. Moreover, Cuba is one of his recent concerns if China pretends to intervene in the maintenance of the Communist regime in the island. Around a 20% of Cubans have emigrated to US and the openness of the country will affect them directly.

Will the US remain as the guarantor of international peace?

RC: In relation to the American action in foreign conflicts things are going to change. I believe NATO as we know it now will disappear. I mean, Trump has clearly said that if its members want to keep NATO alive then everyone should contribute the same, that is 2% of their GDP.  At the same time, he plans to cut 600 billion dollars in military expending together with the closing of some bases abroad. I believe he is looking for a great defence agreement with Putin which will be turning point in International Relations, finishing with Obama’s boycott to Putin.

In relation to his Economic Policy, what would highlight from his plan to boost the economy?

RC:  Trump will dedicate himself in body and soul to his main promise: “Make America Great Again”. As positive points, the tax reform will reduce taxes mainly to the middle and working classes and will eliminate federal taxes on the poorest 74 million people. Multinational companies will pay taxes in the US and all domestic tax havens will come to an end. He pursuits a New Deal plan with a huge infrastructure investment which will create employment and richness. Having on mind, that the US unemployment rate is only around 4.9%, which can be considered full employment, the result will be a rise in wages which could negatively affect the American economy with a rise of inflation and interest rates.

Could his protectionist measures affect negatively US bilateral relations with the European Union?

RC: Trump is going to act strongly against China because it has been constantly applying abusive exchange rates to their trading affairs with the US. He will probably apply a 45% tax to these transactions to stop Chinese products from invading American markets.

On the contrary, Spanish construction companies will profit from the 1-billion-dollar expense of the infrastructure plan of his New Deal program. Companies such ACS, Ferrovial and OHL are leading references in the US.

Pence and Giuliani defend the idea that Trump has many thig in common with Reagan, the icon of Republicans. Do you agree with this idea?

RC: No I don’t agree with them. In fact, differences between them are bigger than resemblances. What he really wants is to be the Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the 21st Century. He wants to emulate his greatness and well known image and the only way to do this is to count on the best team. He is surrounding himself with whom he thinks are the very best and better prepared for their task, no matter if they are friends or adversaries, like Mitt Romney, no matter their race or background.


 Who do you think will be appointed as the new Secretary of State?

RC: As I have already said, he will probably offer the State Department to Mitt Romney, one of his most fervent detractors during the race to the White House. And the one who used the worst disqualifications towards him such as “phony” and a “con man.” Indeed, he was the spokesman for the Republican segment who turned their back against him. In my opinion Trump is showing his most generous side by giving his toughest adversary the most preeminent position of his government. He is showing the world how pragmatic he can be.


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