Yesterday in Panorama I gave my prospective of the damage inflicted on cross border relations by the malicious scheme by the mayor of La Línea, Alejandro Sánchez, to impose a toll on vehicles leaving Gibraltar and entering his municipality.
It was a viewpoint garnered from Gibraltarians but I believe it is also important to listen to the views of somebody living across the border in La Línea. Hence today I bring you the thoughts of Juan José Uceda Gil who although Spanish and living in La Línea has worked in Gibraltar for many years. He is also the spokesperson for many community groups in the border town including the Spanish workers (ASCTEG) on the Rock. Here he expresses his own personal view.
I asked him what damage did he think had been done to cross border relations by the toll fiasco? He replied:
“I have to say David that the majority of people know it was a political move, of the same kind that the political leader of the PP in Algeciras, Sr Landaluce is always attacking Gibraltar in the media on the themes of the patrols, the jurisdiction of the waters, pollution from the bunkering tankers, the nuclear submarines even though there are none, the airport because he wants it to be Spanish. Always this is very unjust it is the same with the mayor of La Línea who has re-opened wounds that were almost closed from when Franco sealed the border.
“Of course on both sides of the border there are extreme patriots who say these things in bad temper or “mala leche” yearning for times past and to harm relations.
“I do not agree personally with the views and the encounters of the CC.OO and UGT unions with Caruana and the Gib union, they have held a political meeting which has more to do with the need for support for the general strike on September 29 than any long term commitment.
“Also they have forgotten the other side – the Spanish workers in Gibraltar who are suffering psychologically because of the origins of the toll row.
“It has prejudiced the commercial relations that the same mayor initiated some months ago with industry and commerce in Gibraltar and with Mr Caruana when Sr Sánchez said to the unemployed of La Línea that thanks to his meetings in Gibraltar they are now negotiating to generate employment on various projects for the “third age” and others which because of professional secrecy he could not reveal.
“In the end the people of good faith in La Línea and Gibraltar above all, must forget what has happened, but Gibraltar has the pain of the closure of the border and it will take many years until all this is cured. You cannot simply erase what our mayor has done.
“The fact is that the majority people who live in La Línea are against what he wants to do.
“Alejandro took a week before we met to discuss the toll proposal. The meeting produced nothing productive because he had a blind spot as far as the toll is concerned and he wouldn’t withdraw the idea and apologise to the people of Gibraltar. I told him his proposal would create conflict to the point where the government’s delegate would have to intervene and he hoped the national media would depict him as the ‘linease’ hero.
“The PP high command in Madrid with members who are anti British and for the Spanish flag in Gibraltar insist to Alejandro that he continues with the toll because this opens the way for these people who are followers of the dictator and now there is proof that some people in the military have sanctioned it and the press says that the military does not want an accord based on the government’s policy towards Gibraltar.
“We are now preparing leaflets, posters and petitions which we shall be using from 7.30 this morning (Friday) in Gibraltar to advise that on Tuesday September 21 we have a demonstration at the border, without blocking it, by the statue of the Spanish worker from16.00 to 19.00 and if there are enough supporters we will go from their to the town hall.
“On Friday afternoon ASCTEG has its second meeting to form a group or action group against the toll and we have invited all the political parties (except for the PP obviously), community groups and the unemployed to join us.
“Mi opinión y lo que vida día a día.”
(The above article was published in Panorama on Friday September 17)