Ignacio Arsuaga Rato (*1973) is a Spanish lawyer and Catholic Right campaigner. He is the founder and president of the Spanish anti-LGBTIQ platform HazteOir.org ("Make Yourself Heard"), and also of the internationally operating Christian Right CitizenGO foundation and petition platform. He has been involved in the planning of the Christian Right super-group World Congress of Families at least since 2008, and in 2014 joined the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society as director, the organization behind the WCF. For many years Arsuaga has been a friend of Santiago Abascal, leader of the Spanish far-right party Vox,1 founded in the same year as CitizenGo (2013).
Santiago Abascal, leader of the Vox party, and Ignacio Arsuaga in 2014.
Arsuaga is a trained lawyer and a member of the Bar Association in Madrid, his hometown, where he lives with his wife and five children. He was brought up in a Catholic family. His father, José Pío Arsuaga Echevarría, had worked at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.2 Arsuaga's paternal grandmother, Mercedes Echevarría de Meer, was a Baroness de Moncley. He is the great-grandson of an artillery general who served under dictator Francisco Franco.2 His uncle, Rodrigo Rato, was the former vice president of the Spanish government and former manager of the IMF.3
Arsuaga says that he had his religious calling in 1991 during a pilgrimage to the city of Czestochowa in southern Poland on a World Youth Day.3 "There I became aware that Jesus Christ, the Church and faith are not only a moral code or doing good to others, but there is a person who loves me madly, wants my salvation and is waiting for me in the tabernacle," he explained in an interview to the religious portal Camino Católico.
Arsuaga graduated in law at the Universidad Pontificia de Comillas (ICADE),4 a private Catholic university run by the Society of Jesus. According to his CV he has worked for multinational companies such as Andersen and American Express (Director of Regulatory Compliance2 ). In 1998, Arsuaga made his masters degree in International Law at the Fordham University, New York. Between 1999 and 2002, he worked for the law firm Garrigues.2
In 1998, according to his CV, "Arsuaga became familiar with the American grassroots movements and studied specifically their lobbying activities and the tools they used for citizen involvement in politics and the public arena. Based on his American experience, Mr. Arsuaga founded HazteOir.org in 2001."4
HazteOir.org is a Spanish ultraconservative platform rallying against an imputed "gender ideology," and all its alleged causes and ramifications: feminism, contraception, abortion, divorce or gay rights.
Initially, HazteOir.org was created as an online petition website but over the years grew into a powerful ultraconservative lobby. Its first petition demanded from the Spanish Government more efforts to support married couples and families, but over the years it has extended its scope including the organization of mass rallies against abortion. According to Arsuaga, HazteOir.org has currently approximately 550,000 members who participate in its campaigns.4
According to his CV, Arsuaga has been a professor of "New Technologies and Citizen Participation" at the graduate program "Master of Political Action" at the University Francisco de Vitoria (Madrid). He was awarded a Masters of Applied Political Studies, a degree conferred by the Secretary of State of the Spanish Government.5 In 2007, he participated as a speaker at a Symposium on e-Democracy, organized by the Council of Europe (Strassbourg).
In the summer of 2008, Arsuaga was a member of the Selection Committee for the fifth iteration of the World Congress of Families, which organized the congress in Amsterdam in August the following year. According to an article by the Christian Telegraph6 :
The 16-member Selection Committee was composed of: Ignacio Arsuaga (HazteOir.org, Spain), Chuck Donovan (Family Research Council), Don Feder (World Congress of Families), Farooq Hassan (Pakistan Family Forum), Jesus Hernandez (The Family Network, Mexico), Marie-Claire Hernandez (Family & Society, Mexico), Randy Hicks (Georgia Family Council), Robert Knight (Culture and Media Institute, Media Research Center), Ewa Kowalewska (Human Life International, Europe), Gwendolyn Landolt (REAL Women of Canada), Yuri Mantilla (Focus on the Family), Dorothy Patterson (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), Austin Ruse (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute), Mary Ellen Smoot, Jennifer Swim (GFC Foundation) and Father Jaroslaw Szymczak (Institute of Family Studies, Poland). The meeting was chaired by Gwen Landolt (Real Women of Canada).
In May 2012, HazteOír organized the 6th edition of the World Congress of Families (WCF) in Madrid. During the following 7th WCF congress in Sydney Ignacio Arsuaga was awarded the title “Man of the year in defense of the natural family.”7
In May 2013, HazteOir was declared an organization of public interest by Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz (Partido Popular),8 which gave it tax and economic benefits, as well as free legal aid.9
In 2013, Arsuaga was part of the international planning committee organizing the 8th iteration of the World Congress of Families summit in Moscow, scheduled for September 10 to 12, 2014.10 According to a mailing list announcement10 :
Members of the International Planning Committee for WCF VIII that attended the Moscow meeting included: Ignacio Arsuaga (HazteOir, Spain), Brian Brown (National Organization for Marriage, U.S.), Benjamin Bull (Alliance Defending Freedom, U.S.), Allan Carlson, Lawrence Jacobs and Don Feder (The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society and World Congress of Families, U.S.), Silvio Dalla Valle (Association for the Defense of Christian Values, Italy), Shelly Locke (Power of Mothers, U.S.), Bob McKoskrie (Family First, New Zealand), Tom Minnery (Focus on The Family, U.S.) Justin Murff (Christian Broadcasting Network, U.S.), Austin Ruse (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, U.S.), Steven Smoot (Family First Foundation, U.S.), Christopher Carmouche (GrassTopsUSA), Christine Vollmer (Latin American Alliance for the Family, Venezuela), Peter Westmore (Australian Family Association), Srdjan Nogo (Dveri, Serbia), Vincente Segu (Incluyendo Mexico), Fabrice Sorlin (France) and Jack Hanick (formerly with FOX News, U.S.).
Because of the situation in the Ukraine and Crimea, the American organizers officially "suspended" the planning of the event.11 However, a congress with a very similar lineup and program was held in Moscow after all. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center12 :
For fear of American sanctions, the WCF’s American leadership publicly dropped its affiliation to the congress. Despite WCF officially pulling out, behind closed doors, a nearly identical conference was held the same day with a similar program, similar attendees, and — initially — the WCF listed as organizers. It was even attended by WCF communications director Don Feder and late managing director Larry Jacobs. Though [Aleksey] Komov mentioned the WCF were organizers in the media, Jacobs maintained it was not.
As a new look at a trove of emails released in 2014 by the Russian hacker collective Shaltai Boltai (Humpty Dumpty) reveals, the 2014 Moscow Congress was just the tip of the iceberg. WCF’s involvement in Russian geopolitics runs deep and led to a collaboration that gave Russian Orthodox oligarchs apparent access to the powerful American Christian evangelical political machine.
This conference, entitled “Large Families: The Future of Humanity,” was bankrolled i.a. by the Russian oligartch Konstantin Malofeev.12
CitizenGo logo in 2014.
In 2013, HazteOír, presided over by Arsuaga, founded CitizenGo, an internationally operating Christian Right online platform that launches petitions worldwide to further its causes.13 14 Petitions filed with the platform are for a large part opposing same-sex marriage, abortion, and euthanasia, with a clear anti-feminist and anti-LGBTIQ bias.
It may be presumed that Brian S. Brown, an American Catholic Right activist and board member of CitizenGo,15 was instrumental in setting up the enterprise, as his website, ActRight.com had already the technology in place for online petitions and other forms of user engagement to support right-wing causes. In a previous version of CitizenGo’s website the banner included the slogan “member of the ActRight family.16 According to openDemocracy17 :
Arsuaga told our reporter that he met Brown at a WCF meeting in Madrid in 2012 and that CitizenGo gets advice “every couple of months or so” from a “senior expert” in fundraising and technology who is “paid by Brian Brown.” This expert is Darian Rafie, Brown’s partner at an American organisation called ActRight, which describes itself online as a “clearinghouse for conservative action.”
OpenDemocracy reported that ActRight had also paid for a CitizenGo staff member in 2013.17 From 2013 onward, also HazteOir hosted petitions on its website,18 however, it is now integrated into the CitizenGo website.19
Brian S. Brown and Ignacio Arsuaga at a CitizenGo board of trustees meeting in December 2016.
In 2014, Arsuaga took part in the March for Marriage in Washington, D.C. On a picture he can be seen alongside Mike Huckabee of the American Republican Party, the Mexican Rodrigo Iván Cortés of the National Action Party, and Luca Volontè, an Italian politician and Christian Right activist sentenced to four years in prison for taking bribes from Azerbaijani politicians in January 2021.20 21
From left to right: the condemned Luca Volontè, Mike Huckabee of the American Republican Party, the Mexican Rodrigo Iván Cortés of the National Action Party, and Ignacio Arsuaga, president of HazteOír and CitizenGo, at the March for Marriage held in Washington in 2014.
In 2014, Arsuaga joined the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society (doing business as International Organization for the Family) as a director,22 a key organization behind the creation of the World Congress of Families in 1997.23 The same year the American Brian Brown and the Mexican Vicente Segu Marcos joined as fellow directors, all of whom are still listed as trustees, according to the Howard Center's latest filings (2019).24 They were joined in 2016 by the Russian Aleksey Komov and the Italian Luca Volontè as fellow trustees.25
In October 2015, Arsuaga became editor of Actuall, a digital medium whose philosophy is "to promote the participation of citizens in the defense of human rights, from conception to natural death."3 26
In 2017, a hacker group called ACAB Gang was hacking the servers of HazteOir and subsequently published the roughly 20,000 documents and several databases amounting to over 20GB of data. "They lay out in detail the lobby's strategic planning, from internal reports, contact lists, court cases, to financial documents. There's also a great deal of private information concerning chairman Ignacio Arsuaga, including his private calls."27
Arsuaga's communication reveals that he had his son doing a hormone treatment in order to prevent that he becomes a homosexual.27
Arsuaga also serves as a member the Selection Committee of the World Congress of Families. During the 2019 iteration of the WCF, Arsuaga can be seen together with Matteo Salvini on a picture, both having been speakers at the conference.28
- 1Moritz Oswald, "International Network of Spain’s Vox Party," Belltower News, October 11, 2021, https://www.belltower.news/far-right-iberosphere-international-network-of-spains-vox-party-122475/.
- 2 a b c d "¿Quién es Ignacio Arsuaga? Hazte oír," El Plural, March 5, 2017, https://www.elplural.com/leequid/quien-es-ignacio-arsuaga-hazte-oir_123394102.
- 3 a b c Joaquín Vera, " Ignacio Arsuaga, el líder iluminado de HazteOir contra la 'inquisición gay,'" El Español, March 4, 2017, https://www.elespanol.com/reportajes/20170303/197980564_0.html.
- 4 a b c Ignacio Arsuaga's CV, https://www.dropbox.com/s/flczv5k88j6ad3u/CV%20IAR%20in%20English.docx?dl=0.
- 5"WCF Profiles in Leadereship: Ignacio Arsuaga," World Congress of Families Newsletter, Vol. 3, Nr. 9, November 2009, https://web.archive.org/web/20101230020703/http://www.worldcongress.org/wcfnl/pdf/2009/wcfnl.0909.pdf.
- 6"World Congress of Families V to be in Amsterdam," Christian Telegraph, July 8, 2008, https://web.archive.org/web/20170331102747/http://www.christiantelegraph.com/issue2598.html.
- 7“Ignacio Arsuaga, ‘Hombre del Año en defensa de la familia natural,’” El Imparcial, January 29, 2013, https://www.elimparcial.es/noticia/117790/sociedad/ignacio-arsuaga-hombre-del-ano-en-defensa-de-la-familia-natural.html.
- 8Iván Gil, “¿Quién conduce el autobús de HazteOir? De la secta ultra El Yunque al pariente de Rato,” El Confidencial, March 2, 2017, https://www.elconfidencial.com/espana/2017-03-02/quien-es-hazte-oir-autobus-transfobo-el-yunque_1341111/.
- 9“La Utilidad Pública,” Fundación Gestión y Participación Social, April 18, 2011, http://www.asociaciones.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=658&Itemid=41.
- 10 a b "International Planning Committee Meets In Moscow To Plan World Congress of Families VIII (September 10-12, 2014)," International Organization for the Family, October 23, 2013, https://us2.campaign-archive.com/?u=71b5ff0a93830214b96a42bf6&id=506aaa3795&e=594c6f534a.
- 11"Planning for World Congress of Families VIII Suspended," Christian News Wire, March 25, 2014, http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/372773850.html.
- 12 a b "How the World Congress of Families serves Russian Orthodox political interests," Southern Poverty Law Center, May 16, 2018, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/05/16/how-world-congress-families-serves-russian-orthodox-political-interests.
- 13HazteOir, http://www.hazteoir.org/.
- 14 Jesús Bastante and Marta Borraz, "Los ultracatólicos de HazteOir cambian de marca para limpiar su imagen," El Diario, https://www.eldiario.es/sociedad/HazteOir-blanquea-vinculacion-Yunque-plataforma_0_608239475.html.
- 15"About Us," CitizenGo, archived copy from September 22, 2014, https://web.archive.org/web/20140922062809/http://citizengo.org/en/node/1.
- 16CitizenGo, archived on June 28, 2014, https://web.archive.org/web/20140628080718/http://www.citizengo.org/.
- 17 a b Claire Provost and Adam Ramsay, "Revealed: the Trump-linked 'Super PAC' working behind the scenes to drive Europe's voters to the far Right," OpenDemocracy, April 25, 2019, https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/5050/revealed-the-trump-linked-super-pac-working-behind-the- scenes-to-drive-europes-voters-to-the-far-right/.
- 18HazteOir.org, archived copy from September 20, 2013, https://web.archive.org/web/20130930105247/http://www.hazteoir.org/.
- 19HazteOir.org / Grupo CitizenGo, https://www.citizengo.org/hazteoir.
- 20Zdravko Ljubas, "Italian Court Sentences Former Council of Europe MP for Bribery," OCCRP, January 14, 2021, https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/13628-italian-court-sentences-former-council-of-europe-mp-for-bribery.
- 21"El exdiputado italiano y patrono de CitizenGO, Luca Volontè, condenado por corrupción," Lamarea, January 26, 202, https://www.lamarea.com/2021/01/26/exdiputado-italiano-patrono-citizengo-condenado-corrupcion/.
- 22"The International Organization for the Family Inc., Form 990 for period ending September 2015," ProPublica, https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/541788267/2016_04_EO%2F54-1788267_990_201509.
- 23Kristina Stoeckl, “The Rise of the Russian Christian Right: The Case of the World Congress of Families,” Religion, State and Society 48, no. 4 (August 7, 2020): 223–38, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09637494.2020.1796172.
- 24"The International Organization for the Family Inc., Form 990 for period ending December 2019," ProPublica, https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/541788267/02_2021_prefixes_52-56%2F541788267_201912_990_2021022217736611.
- 25"The International Organization for the Family Inc., "Full Filing" for fiscal year ending Sept. 2017," https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/541788267/201841459349300539/full.
- 26"Publicaciones por Ignacio Arsuaga Rato," Actuall, https://www.actuall.com/author/iarsuaga/.
- 27 a b La Imilla Hacker, "HAZTEOIRLEAKS: INTERVIEWING ACABgang!," El Desarmador, April 7, 2017, https://eldesarmador.org/hazteoirleaks-entrevista-a-acabgang-en.html.
- 28"Speakers," World Congress of Families XIII, Verona, 29-31 March, 2019, https://wcfverona.org/en/speakers/.