Pepita Says “We are listening”

Meeting with San Antonio Mayor Gutiérrez,


  • Nick Gibbs, 11/02/15

Our lead story last week caused quite a reaction. We reported  on San An’s call for Antidisturbios on the streets in the summer months, and specifically highlighted the negative PR risks of ill-considered  policy statements and the way they will be used in sections of the UK press.

(read last week’s report here )

In the report we said an interview had been requested with San An Mayor Pepita Gutiérrez, however on receiving an acceptance invitation for Monday at 12.30, I could not be sure whether the appointment had been confirmed in knowledge and sight of our ‘Dear Pepita, Please Listen’ headline or not.

From the many comments received in the course of this job, and particularly around this event in person and on social media, the vast majority of feedback was in agreement to the broad thrust of the article, but you must always be mindful people are far less likely to tell you they disagree than agree. All things considered I felt I had some good questions prepared around common concern topics. I was pleased to have received 2 contacts of support from prominent people (but non-party-political) in the Spanish community.

Well as it turned out my interviewing abilities were, thankfully I am sure, not to be weighed up against Jeremy Bowen’s BBC probe of Syrian President  Bashar al-Assad.

On arrival at the Ajuntament  I was told the Mayor did not want to give an interview today but would be pleased to talk informally and had invited the councillor responsible for Policing to join us.

We talked for around 45 minutes and though it was disappointing not to be able to ask, well more to the point be able to report on, some of the questions to which I know people want to hear answers, it is perhaps better to look on the positive of it being an open door, a step in the right direction.

In broad terms I can at least say that the Town Hall feel they have lines of communication open, and that nothing was said that gave me the impression they were totally closed to views and suggestions from the British and Irish community on issues that affect us directly, or affect our tourists.

At the same time I would say many of the responses would surprise a lot of people in business and working in San An tourism, as having little resemblance to the reality of the world they live and work in.

I feel I can relay one point that, though small in itself, is perhaps a perfect example of how greater cultural understanding could help in both directions, and how little we may know about each other in some surprising ways.

The possibility of British Police coming over and working was raised, and I joked about how jealous the British Police may be in light of the grief and abuse they have to put up with when  dealing with idiots and how I’m sure many of them would love to be able to take the more direct action of their Spanish counterparts (i.e. give a slap when a slap was appropriate) without worrying that it would signal the end of their career, be stripped of their pension, and end up being taken to court by a member of Jeremy Kyle’s audience. Their look of genuine shock was not as they couldn’t understand what the hell I was on about   (obviously I didn’t explain it like that), it was due to their seemingly genuine belief that it was the other way around. That Britain had the strong empowered Police commanding the respect of the people, to a higher/greater level than Spain. Well at least we know they don’t watch Dagenham-Cop-Patrol  or  Cam-Cops-Live. I feel sure a greater understanding of the typical-tourist would go some good way to improving matters, and in that respect it was good to hear progress has been made on the British Bobby front with San An’s hoteliers deserving of praise for agreeing to cover their accommodation costs  to remove one more obstacle on the road to making that idea a reality.

As to the idea of Riot Police, those present were keen to stress that the press release was unfortunately worded, yes it said Antidisturbios, yes Spanish people would also read that as that particular brand of Riot Police, but it is not what they really meant. They did issue me a statement afterwards but it will not translate well. What they are saying is that the request for additional Police is almost a standard, they ask every year. In terms of a specialist unit their request is for “GRS agents (Reserve and Security Group), a specialized branch of the Guardia Civil, as a reinforcement for the Local Police.” I don’t know the job of this unit or how it differs to any other, but the inference was that they were nothing like as hardcore as the full on Antidisturbios. Whether this is correct, or misdirection, or whether the press release was intentionally worded using Antidisturbios to benefit from the appeal to a certain voter type, or something as simple as a secretarial error transcribing notes, I have no idea.

Of course I have not even mentioned the issue that from our straw poll, our inbox, from conversations with everyone everywhere, I know to be the issue of greatest concern to the most people. “Why do we have streets full of pickpockets, prostitutes, drug dealers and counterfeiters, all working with apparent impunity?” As I said, the responses would be surprising, actually I suppose they would be anything but surprising for many of you, the responses would be exactly what you would expect – so there would be a long way to go in getting to grips with it all –  but I guess we have the most basic of starts.  Also in another unexpected way I think it will open the door to something potentially very good for all in our community so more on that next week.