Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Un Ajuste De Cuentas

The Spanish police didn't take long to reach conclusions about the murder of a Senegalese immigrant in the Almerian town of Roquetas de Mar on Saturday night. An “ajuste de cuentas” (a settling of accounts) we were told, probably involving drugs. I've often heard this given as the motive for a crime here. At first I marvelled at the rapidity of the police investigations, the bodies would barely be cold following a shooting and already the police had come up with the motive for the crime. Then with the passage of time I realised that this conclusion was hardly ever the result of any investigation at all, and seemed to simply be a way of explaining away crimes that might otherwise be difficult to solve; usually involving foreigners killing other foreigners. I even found that I could more or less guess when it would be used, with practice I have a fairly good success rate.

Those who know the victim of the weekend's events claim that he had no involvement of any kind in criminal activities, he had a job and was close to securing legal status in the country; the dream of all of those who continue to undertake the tremendously dangerous journey by boat from Africa to the Canary islands or the southern coast of Spain. Some press coverage has also focused on the miserable conditions in which many of these immigrants live as they collect the fruit and vegetables produced under plastic in Almeria and other areas on the Mediterranean coast. At the same time the native population does very well from the steady stream of cheap labour. One of the best columnists in the Spanish press, Javier Ortiz, writes eloquently on the subject today. The police crackdown in the town contrasts sharply with the events of El Ejido a few years ago, then the police watched with folded arms as the locals burnt and chased hundreds of immigrants out of their homes.


Keefieboy said...

Apart from all that, has it been a secret fiesta in Madrid today? Our building's portero is nowhere to be seen, lots of bars are closed, even the dire Dia is shut! Wappnin'?

I've been in the house all day so I felt a bit like a space alien landing on a deserted planet when I went out shoppoing at 5.30.

Tom said...

This is a very sad case and, as you point out, there's currently no evidence that the police 'theory' is based on anything more than surmise.

Actually, the case sort of reminds me of two things I've been thinking a lot about recently. Firstly, I've just read Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano, which tells the tale of the Neapolitan Camorra, their killings and the way they've utterly destroyed much of southern Italy. It's worth reading: it's not a macho gang story/airport novel at all.

The other story I've been thinking about is that of Azelle Rodney, killed by the Metropolitan Police in 2005. Police officers were very quick to issue 'unofficial' and anonymous hints to the press that Azelle was a drug dealer and that he'd been armed. These stories were given much prominence in the press. The official retractions which followed were basically ignored.

Graeme said...

The answer to your question keefieboy is yes, today is a festivo in Madrid. I didn't know either until last night.

Tom, I think even the police aren't sticking to the ajuste de cuentas line any more, I just find it interesting the way they always drag it out until something else comes to light. The thing is, once it's out there....

The book on Naples I've heard about, I think I read an interview a while ago with the author. Sounds good.

Midnight Golfer said...

@keefieboy: How strange, here in the South (Costa del Sol) I just got back from the supermarket as well. There was no one there, just a few people working, hardly any one on the road, and no one out walking.
I was spooked as well.

I worked for a police department at one time. Sometimes, reporters just keep asking until someone gives their opinion, and it gets taken as an official statement. Other times the official statement has so many if's/then's/purportedly's/alleged's etc. that there is no reason to even listen to any of it.

Riots in Roquetas said...

Quieter night tonight. Although over 100 police patrolling the place with a helicopter.
Actually, locals reckon drugs had nothing to do with it, it was just a racist attack from some gitanos.

Graeme said...

All of which suggests that the ajuste de cuentas line is just police talk for saying "we don't know what happened". It's a shame that in the process they smear the name of the victim.