Thursday, March 31, 2011


There can be few people in the world who would embrace Gaddafi (well apart from the US, British, Spanish, Italian and other leading politicians plus royalty who did so in recent years) but I feel uneasy about the current military action in Libya.

I agree the people of Benghazi should be saved but then so too should the people of Zimbabwe, the Congo, Sudan, Israel, Gaza and many other places in the world too numerous to mention who have come under fire and been slaughtered whilst the world stood by.

Indeed many of these are not past events but current. Zimbabwe is about to have another violent election but by all accounts has still found time to send “troops” to aid Gaddafi in his fight.

We do not even know who we are saving in the rebel part of Libya. Hilary Clinton admits the US hasn’t got a clue. Yet she wants to arm them in the same manner as the US did in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq in years gone by. Then, years later, the US is amazed when the barrels are aimed at them by the very same people who they thought were on their side.

So why was the British Government so keen to intervene? To cover up for the botched attempts to evacuate its nationals? To divert attention from the real economic crisis facing the British people? Cameron may want to be a world leader – but please sort the mess out at home first.

US Republicans were angry because Obama didn’t rush in to Libya straight away. Now they are furious because he has taken action. The madness is worthy of a scenario involving Gaddafi.

Either the world intervenes to stop carnage or its stands by. You can’t step into oil States such as Libya and Iraq and stand by idly in Zimbabwe and countless other African and Arab nations.

There is no good carnage and bad carnage only carnage.

The West backed numerous despots because they ruled in the West’s national interest. Now the people of these countries want to be governed in their own interests not those of Washington, London, Paris or Rome.

The fact is the Western governments haven’t a clue whether they are coming or going – but in the meantime they’ll bomb Libya.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Eight years ago Madrid and wider Spain witnessed major demonstrations against the country’s involvement in the war in Iraq. Last Saturday the protestors returned to the streets of the nation’s capital this time to denounce Spain’s support of the military intervention in Libya.

Behind the banner “No a la Guerra” the marchers included the Izquierda Unida MP, Gaspar Llamazares, actors Alberto San Juan, Guillermo Toldeo and Juan Diego Botto plus the singer Germán Coppini. They were joined by other leading figures from the world of politics and culture.

The organisers say the purpose of the march was to bring thousands of people out on to the street with a twin message – no to foreign military intervention in Libya – and – no to the Muamar Gaddafi dictatorship.

Julio Rodríguez Bueno, president of Paz Ahora, one of the pacifist organisers of the demonstration considers that the foreign military intervention is the support for a campaign of lies. He compared it with the action against Saddam Hussein who was accused of having weapons of mass destruction and being a supporter of Al Qaeda.

From another viewpoint the IU’s social movement organizer, Fran Pérez, believes the conflict in Libya is “a war for petroleum”. He added the aim was to ferment civil war so that military intervention could be used in an imperialist project to dominate natural resources.

Indeed the people of Libya are lucky they have oil on their side. This saw the USA and western nations scuttling in to save them whilst those in Egypt, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen are left to fend for themselves as their countries are as dry as the desert sands.

One pundit observed nations do not back causes they only intervene when their national interests and/or vital resource supplies are threatened.

Let the people of Benghazi give thanks nor for Sarkozy but liquid gold!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has talked of revenge against NATO nations for the no-fly zone and military operations currently being carried out against his regime in Libya under the UN motion.

Of course Gaddafi has his hands full on his own turf without being able to plan outrages in Britain or France. However that is not to say his surrogates will not do his work for him.

British Intelligence has for long stated the major threat in the UK comes not from Muslim inspired terrorism but rogue elements amongst Irish Republican groups. These members of the IRA and INLA do not accept the peace agreement and power sharing accords and are carrying on the fight long abandoned by their brothers and sisters in arms and Sinn Fein.

To see just how an important role Libya played in arming the IRA we have to go back to 1986 when Gaddafi resumed supplying arms to the Republican terror organisation because Britain assisted the USA in the bombing of Tripoli. Sound familiar?

In fact the first arms delivery was discovered back in 1973 when the Claudia was intercepted with guns and ammunition off the Irish coast. Experts say the most significant weapon supplied by Gaddafi to the IRA was Semtex which was used to create landmines for attacks against British soldiers in Northern Ireland. Before Libya’s intervention the IRA was fighting a modern war with ancient weapons.

At the time of the decommissioning of the IRA’s weapons it was estimated the organisation still held 2.5 tonnes of Semtex with a shelf life of another 20 years. Some of that would have gone, perhaps the vast majority, but enough may remain for dissident Republicans to plant another bomb in London in support of their aims and as a thank you to their embattled arms supplier. Even if the Semtex has gone they are not short of a bomb or two.

As I was writing this British Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, was being interviewed by The Guardian. In the interview he said the dictator could stage another Lockerbie-style terrorist attack: “The British people have reason to remember the curse of Gaddafi - Gaddafi back in power, the old Gaddafi looking for revenge, we have a real interest in preventing that...”

Clarke is envisaging an attack should Gaddafi survive in Libya. I am suggesting it may come before that.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


A few weeks ago I took a drive around Nueva Andalucía in Marbella for old time’s sake. I passed what had been a restaurant owned by those with criminal connections in London. Just up the road was a bar where then recently released English criminals used to call in for breakfast. Over a two week period the American owner told me they had been very friendly, never offered to pay for their food and he never liked to ask. All of this was within a stroll of Mad Frankie Fraser’s old manor.

Of course British criminal gangs have always been involved in turf wars or acts of revenge but these used to take place in their own back yards. In recent years Nueva Andalucía has become the preserve of Britons with criminal connections. There have been a number of shootings, some deadly, in what the National Police call the “settling of accounts” largely amongst drug traffickers.

The latest of these cases was the Thursday of last week just before 15.15 when the 091 emergency room of the local police in Marbella received a call to say there had been a shooting in the calle del Califa. A number of shots were discharged and a person injured.

When officers arrived there was no injured man to be found but eyewitnesses informed them the shooting had indeed taken place with the victim shot in the leg. It is understood the gunman arrived on the back of a motorbike; had got off and shot the victim as he talked with another man in the street. The gunman was then driven off at speed whilst the injured man was taken away in a four wheel drive vehicle.

Police searched the scene and found two spent cartridges which corresponded with the number of shots heard. However there was no sign of blood and no hospital or health centre had treated anybody for gunshot wounds.

From speaking to witnesses police say they are sure those involved were British. Tragically this is nothing new for Nueva Andalucía where one of the more serious shootings was in December 2009 when a Briton was shot three times, with one bullet entering his head.

However the worst case was back in December 2004 when gunmen shot and killed a 7-year-old boy and a 36-year-old hairdresser outside the Andalucía Plaza Hotel. Also injured in the hail of bullets were three other people. This case probably did not involve Britons although one of the gunmen spoke in English.

The tragic events took place at 17.30 on a Saturday afternoon when three heavily armed men got out of an Audi car parked outside the hotel leaving a fourth man at the wheel. They walked to a BMW parked outside the Cosmo hairdressers, which is part of the hotel building, and fired at a man sitting in the passenger seat. Eyewitnesses then say that the trio ran to the entrance of the hotel and one of the men fired a hail of bullets inside. The men were armed with automatic rifles and reports state that police found over 100 spent shells at the scene of the shooting.

Killed in the outrage was the 36-year-old Italian male owner of the hairdressers. Slain too was a seven-year-old boy from Sevilla who was on a short holiday to Marbella. He was waiting in the interior of the hotel for members of his family when around 6 bullets hit him in the abdomen. His aunt and another family member were amongst those injured.

After the shooting, an Algerian-born French businessman, without any known previous convictions, went to Marbella National Police station and told officers that he believed that he was the target of the killers. The businessman is involved in the exclusive fashions industry and commutes between Paris and Marbella. He was in the hairdressers at the time of the shooting.

He claims that he did not know the identity of the four men but they appeared to be looking for a second man after shooting his colleague sitting in the BMW. The injured man, who also has no previous convictions, has been described as the Frenchman’s friend and bodyguard. A pistol was found beneath the BMW car and officers have arrested him in his hospital bed on charges of alleged possession of an illicit firearm.

Today the Costa del Sol is a shooting gallery for rival gangsters. British criminals there are a plenty plus various Italian mafias, Russians, Eastern Europeans and bad guys and girls from other nations. The only difference is now the Spanish police work closely with their counterparts in these countries. Hence if you turn a corner and face a man or woman with a gun they are just as likely to be from the police as a gang member.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I have been reading a press notice from the Colectivo Andaluz Contra el Maltrato Animal which protests that the Andalucía government is breaking its own law governing the use of animals in circuses.

The action group says it has made official complaints against all circuses that have animals as they visit Andalucía. The denouncements have been lodged with the region’s ministries of agriculture and fisheries as well as the environment along with the government offices in each province yet it is claimed the action has been taken without any success.

The circuses still use animals for fun and entertainment. However the Ley de Protección de los Animales passed in November 24, 2003, in article four prohibits the use of animals in exhibitions, circuses, publicity, popular fiestas and other activities which allow the animal to incur suffering, pain or unnatural treatment. Other provisions underscore these provisions and also lay down strict procedures for how animals must be housed, cared for and transported.

Fair enough! I have nothing against circuses as long as they don’t use animals.

However just let us rewind here. The Colectivo Andaluz Contra el Maltrato Animal says the 2003 law prohibits the use of animals in exhibitions, circuses, publicity, popular fiestas and other activities which allow the animal to incur suffering, pain or unnatural treatment.

Now popular fiestas would no doubt include the ‘fiesta nacional’ – the bullfight – and such events where the bull or young calf isn’t killed but is chased through the street, wrestled to the ground in a plaza de toros or has baskets of fire attached to its horns – for the fun of the public.

If I read this law correctly - in Andalucía all these are illegal. So it is not just circuses the regional government should be acting against (but isn’t) but its own law says bullfights should be banned too. Or am I missing something here?

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I am a great aficionado of the detective novels of Donna Leon. They are set in Venice, revolve around the Commissario Brunetti and the last one I read was ‘About Face’.

I will quote from the sleeve notes: “Brunetti is visited by Carabinieri Maggior Filippo Guarino from the nearby city of Marghera. As part of a wider investigation into Mafia takeovers of businesses in the region, Guarino wants information about the owner of a trucking company who was found murdered in his office. He believes the man’s death is connected to the illegal transportation of refuse – and more sinister material – in his company’s trucks.”

Indeed he is. I won’t give any more of the story away in case you wish to read it but the origin of this waste is Naples.

So this week I was rather taken aback when I read the Andalucía environment ministry has rejected a formal request presented by two Italian companies to transfer 30,000 tonnes of rubbish from the city of - Naples - to the waste dump in Jerez de la Frontera in Cádiz province.

The minister for the environment, José Juan Díaz Trillo, confirmed on February 18 that his department had received the formal request from the two companies. The ministry had been assured the waste contained no dangerous materials.

However the ministry rejected the request and on Saturday Trillo stated: “The Andalucía government from the start has made it clear and has taken a firm position that it would not allow this type of rubbish in the community.”

EU law prohibits the treatment of dangerous waste or that with special characteristics outside of the country of its origin. In this instance the waste is said not to be hazardous but Trillo believes it is for the Italians to handle their own waste and not Jerez or Andalucía.

I am sure the waste is what the Italians say it was – but you can’t help wondering. Perhaps another case for Commissario Brunetti!

(Photo: rubbish on a street in Naples)

Monday, March 14, 2011


For nearly two months our daily news headlines have been led by the push for democracy in Arab nations.

More recently the news has been dominated by Libya with TV stations having reporters on the frontline, in Tripoli and in neighbouring nations.

None-the-less there has been space in every hour for other international and national news, sport, weather and comment.

Not any more. As soon as the earthquake and tsunami struck in Japan all other news ceased to exist.

I wake up every day to Sky News and seemingly the only news in the world is Japan. I wouldn’t mind if the content of the programmes was informative but invariably it is repeating what it told me the hour before and the day before.

I accept the events in Japan are terrible – the worst earthquake and tsunami ever.

Yet to behave as if all other news had ceased is simply ridiculous.

I suspect that come the next TV awards Sky News will receive a gong for its coverage in Japan.

In the meantime Libya’s struggle goes on as it does in other Arab nations but Sky News and other TV stations have enforced their own news blackout – censorship far more effective than anything Gadafi or the other despots could have imposed.

The tsunami has not only swept away thousands of people but also sensible news coverage.

Both are major tragedies.


Spain’s minister of the interior, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, recently officially received the new Guardia Civil patrol boat, the Río Segura, in the port of the Bay of Cádiz. It is the largest vessel to be acquired by the maritime service of the Guardia Civil. It will largely be assigned to service on the high seas in the fight against drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

This is the continuation of a process started in 2007 when the first two ocean going vessels were acquired by the Guardia Civil – the Río Tajo and the Río Miño. These are now also backed up by reconnaissance aircraft.

The Río Segura is 73 metres long, weighs 2,100 tonnes and can be on patrol for 60 days. It has a crew of 39 people but in the case of a rescue on the high seas can take on board another 80. It also has a tele-medicine system on board.

The ministry of the interior also announced a new Guardia Civil unit with its HQ in Cádiz’s port that will serve the Strait area and will use the Río Miño with 32 crew starting operations in April.

Now the first thing that has to be said about the Río Tajo and Río Miño and the new super patrol vessel the Río Segura with relation to Gibraltar is that the British Government is fully aware of their existence. The first two have taken part in a number of international drug operations working with SOCA – the UK’s organized crime agency. Indeed it is likely that the Royal Gibraltar Police either through SOCA or links with the Spanish law agencies have also been involved. Hence in the future all three patrol boats will work with the British police and security agencies in the international war against drugs and people trafficking.

So what is the Gibraltar perspective on this? First it is the RGP and the local port and customs agencies to decide what size of vessels they need to perform their duties in the waters surrounding the Rock. In the end it is a political decision whether they receive these resources or not but it should be a professional request for the equipment to meet the task. So what do they need, have they asked for it, have they received it?

Secondly the waters around Gibraltar are British so it is for London and not No 6 to decide whether the patrol boats used by the Royal Navy are up to the job or whether more fire power is required.

Certainly in Rubalcaba’s statements no mention was made of Gibraltar or its waters in relation to the Segura, Tajo or Miño. That is not to say one or more will not appear around Gibraltar either in the course of its duties or as a perceived incursion in to Britain’s territorial waters.

When those incursions occur then the Gibraltar Government of the day should speak out openly to denounce the violation of its waters – and let both London and Madrid know of its anger. However it is for Britain to take action – yet it has to be realised that the days of sending a gun boat, even if Britain still had one, have long since gone.

The British police agencies work closely with the ministry of the interior as well as the Guardia Civil and Policía Nacional. Hence the British Government should make plain that whilst the Segura, Tajo and Miño work on the high seas with SOCA to combat international crime it is not acceptable for the same vessels, or their smaller versions, to violate Britain’s international recognized territorial waters around Gibraltar. Cooperation works two ways.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Now here’s a strange tale. A 39-year-old man was recently arrested by police in Madrid after he left his son in his car whilst he visited a brothel in Fuenlabrada.

The father has been charged of abandoning a minor. It is alleged he left his son for over an hour whilst he went to the ‘club de alterne’ nearby.

The crying and calls of the youngster locked inside the vehicle were heard by a man who was out running as he passed by. He alerted the National Police who sent a patrol.

It was around 21.00 when officers arrived at the scene. The doors of the car were locked, the windows closed and the street temperature was three degrees centigrade.

Officers asked the boy through the windows if he knew where his father was? The boy told them he said he’d be gone for just five minutes but hadn’t returned and he was cold. The police visited nearby businesses finally arriving at the brothel where the father was with a woman.

The man, who has previous convictions, was arrested and taken to the police HQ. After appearing in court he was released on bail but ordered to present himself to the police every two weeks.

I’ve heard of a child being left outside a pub in England whilst the father or mother or indeed both downed drinks inside – but a brothel! Words fail me!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


When I was young, yes that long ago, I could be heard in many a folk club, pint of stout in hand, crooning along with the best of them to Irish folk songs.

Indeed I even had a copy of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem song book. In the privacy of my own home I would strum along on my guitar to Republican airs.

“Right proudly high over Dublin Town they hung out the flag of war

'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky than at Suvla or Sud-El-Bar

And from the plains of Royal Meath strong men came hurrying through

While Britannia's Huns, with their long range guns sailed in through the foggy dew”

You get the gist.

So why am I telling you this?

Well the Republic of Ireland has just had a general election. As I lived in Dublin for some years, have close Irish roots, indeed my son was born in Churchtown and hence is a son of the Liffey - I have been taking a keen interest in the results.

I have also been spellbound at the knots news presenters have got themselves into trying to pronounce the names of Ireland’s political parties.

At the end of verses in a number of Clancy Brother songs they would shout – Fine Girl, You Are! Apparently Fine Girl is now the major party in the Irish Government.

Of course Fianna Fáil has long considered itself the natural party of government in the Republic. And here perhaps the news readers haven’t got it totally wrong. The proud party of Éamon De Valera was nearly wiped out – hence pronouncing Fianna Fáil as fail may be more than appropriate.

Fine Girl You Are, Indeed!

(For the record Fine Gael secured 76 seats (+25) and will be in coalition with Labour 37 (+17) whilst Fianna Fáil have 20, down 58. Sinn Fein and other parties won 33 seats.)

Monday, March 7, 2011


Some years ago I was involved with an amateur theatre which had its own bar area. After rehearsals or performances actors with a modicum of talent who had taken to the stage started drinking sessions which ended in behaviour that was totally unacceptable. They were tolerated, even lauded by some, because they’re “artists” – so we have to indulge them. Of course if a paying customer to the theatre had behaved in such a manner they would have been thrown out on their ear – and quite rightly too.

This came to mind when I saw remarks by Beatriz de Orleans. She in case you didn’t know – and I didn’t – is the director of communications for Dior in Spain.

In an interview with Concha García Campoy she has leapt to the defence of the fashion house’s sacked designer John Galliano. She purrs that “he is a genius”, we have to “respect his talent” and “we have all been very drunk some day”.

Of course for the majority of woman and mankind the work of fashion designers like Galliano passes us by. Our budget only allows us to by off the peg sensible clothes. For many millions they are so poor they live in rags. Those of us who do see his bizarre creations dismiss them as frippery.

What Beatriz and those of her ilk fail to recognise is that a person who sits on a bar stool and loudly voices anti-Semitic insults and broadcasts his admiration for Hitler isn’t a tortured talented genius – he or she is a racist.

It is not the drink or drugs or a combination of both that puts these words into his or her mouth it just gives them the Dutch courage to speak what they believe openly.

Hitler was probably a handy man to have around the house if you wanted the front room decorated. However the vast majority of us wouldn’t give him or Galliano house room.

Whether Beatriz de Orleans would, is of course, another matter.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


It was Harold Wilson who gave us the phrase “A week is a long time in politics” – and in the case of what is happening in the Middle East and North Africa that is certainly true.

In January I visited the UK to write an article about Sky News and to attend the Fabian Society New Year Conference where Ed Miliband was to speak. Also pencilled in to my diary was a meeting with Sir Teddy Taylor, the former MP for Southend East.

As I caught a minor bug I went ahead with the Sky and Fabian dates but cancelled my meeting with Sir Teddy along with a couple others.

I wanted to chat with Sir Teddy about Gadafi because he had travelled to Libya on a couple of occasions to meet him. My interest was to learn what he made of the leader of that nation and to discuss his views on the Lockerbie bombing – especially as Sir Teddy is from Glasgow. It was mid-January and nobody had foreseen what would happen just weeks later. At that point Gadafi and Libya were on the rehabilitation list!

Reading Sir Teddy’s words in his autobiography Teddy Boy Blue now makes strange reading. I quote:

“If we endeavouring to solve the many problems facing the Middle East my belief is that we would make more progress if we treated the various nations with dignity and respect.

“Another good example of this is my experiences in Libya. I paid a visit there at a time when Mr. Gadaffi (sic throughout) appeared to have no friends in the world and when I was advised that it would be dangerous to travel there. However, as so often before, I found that the foreign office assessment of nations was not too accurate. I visited Mr Gadaffi on my first visit there and several times thereafter. During my first visit he agreed to cancel the provision he had made for the supply of weapons to the IRA and to many other terrorist groups in the world. These massive changes in policy have been maintained.

“The main feature for me on my visit to Libya was to see the actual country itself and the services provided to the community. Of course there is always the danger of being misled, but I can only say that as a person who has no financial or other interests in nations like Libya assessment was that they had many positive features which sadly are not communicated to our people. My experience in the world is that those countries which the West approves of are often the most horrible nations for people to live in whilst those they disapprove of are often liberal and exciting nations which people seem happy to live in.”

It would be interesting to know how Sir Teddy feels about these impressions now.

As I say – a week is a long time in politics!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Gibraltar is a small community, some 30,000 souls all told. That includes Gibraltarians, Britons and other nationalities that have made the Rock their home.

So on the international stage it is not surprising to find there are only two Gibraltarians who have found fame and fortune. One is the singer Albert Hammond and the other the fashion designer John Galliano.

Now whilst Hammond was born in London his parents are Gibraltarian having been evacuated during World War II. So Hammond is technically English but was brought up in Gibraltar. His hit records include: "It Never Rains in Southern California", "The Free Electric Band”,"I Don't Wanna Die in an Air Disaster", "I'm a Train” and "Down by the River".

The problem is both Hammond and Galliano are claimed by the British media to be British. Hence Galliano is a British fashion designer although he was born in Gibraltar, has a Gibraltarian father and Spanish mother, but was raised in England.

Normally I go out of my way to correct both being labelled British, but I now make an exception.

Over recent days Galliano has been suspended then sacked by Paris fashion house Dior, first for making anti-Semitic remarks whilst drunk in a bar in the city. Then having been caught on video, drunk, in the same bar months earlier saying he loved Hitler and again mouthing anti-Semitic sentiments including references to people being gassed.

Whilst this in itself was despicable behaviour it also blackens the name of Gibraltar – a community where people of Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and other faiths and none – all live in peaceful co-existence and harmony.

So Albert Hammond is Gibraltarian, ok – but you are right Galliano is British!