Recently elected President of “Barrio Vivo de Algeciras”, Miguel Alberto Díaz, says that the fight against drugs in the Campo de Gibraltar is a titanic task, and that the only way forward is to provide alternatives for young people and through highlighting the devastating consequences of being involved in the drugs business, either as a small time smuggler or as a consumer.
According to Miguel Alberto Díaz, drug smuggling has been under heavy police pressure in the Strait in recent times, with several successful investigations and busts, but he says that this is “not enough”.
Barrio Vivo is an association which fights against drug addiction as well as helping young people reintegrate into society and offers healthy leisure time alternatives to counterbalance the activities of “an enemy which is strong and unscrupulous”. He says that more resources are needed, not only for police operations which make the news daily, but also for the court system.
“Many arrests are being carried out, including in some major operations involving 200-300 law enforcement officers; the courts are being flooded with these cases and the drug traffickers often have very high-powered lawyers who know how to take advantage of the system so that their client is soon released back onto the street”, warns Díaz, who clarified that Barrio Vivo’s top priority is to make it concerns known to the various administrative bodies in Spain.
“We must continue to strengthen the Courts and the Anti-drug Prosecutor’s Office, and we should also have two separate courts, in the same way as in other places, many of which are under less pressure than our own courts” said Díaz, who is also calling for a review on the question of bail bonds.
“It is not right that when the head of a major crime syndicate, which handles mountains of money at the expense of the misfortune of many families, is arrested, a bail is imposed on him that he can easily pay… These criminals have to go to jail, and to serve all their full sentences”, laments the president of Barrio Vivo.
Miguel Alberto, who succeeded his brother, Pepe Díaz (who will continue to be involved in the financial and administrative aspects of the association, after a “very hard period, involving the financial crisis and the pandemic”), insists in that “Justice cant be so lenient when it comes to drug trafficking because it sends a very dangerous message to the effect that committing crime and getting caught can actually be quite cheap”.
Pepe Diaz, who is a one-time regional leader of the CCOO trades union said that this would “discourage anyone, but above all, the police and civil guards who risk their lives every day by searching houses, sometimes in the middle of the night, without knowing what is going to meet them”.
Diaz insists that the Campo de Gibraltar has long been suffering “hard times”, not only because of the increase of drug smuggling, but also aggressive perpetrators.
The citizen group “For your and everyone’s safety” and the special security plan dubbed “Plan Marlaska” were created for this reason in order to dismantle these powerful organisations which have a complex network throughout the Costa del Sol and even in other provinces that is now more widespread even than it was in the 1990’s.
More investment and employment opportunities needed to face the “narcoeconomy”
“These groups were created some 30 years ago because we saw how people were dying from drug abuse and young lives were being ruined in our neighbourhoods and cities and we had to do something about it” Miguel Alberto said. He also demands that there should be more investment to allow for the economic development of the district and offer new generations more opportunities in terms of training and quality, stable employment.
“If this region does not want a significant part of its population to live off the narcoeconomy, it needs more economic and social policies, and also more livable neighbourhoods, with actions that prevent areas from becoming ghettos,” he adds.
Barrio Vivo will continue to demand that Campo de Gibraltar’s “unique situation” be acknowledged, so that “police and judicial officials who come to the area have incentives to stay, in the same way as those who were deployed to northern Spain during the worst years of terrorism ”, and it must continue to focus on developing workshops and cultural, sports and healthy leisure activities that, like those of the Barrio Joven project, “energize the neighbourhoods and keep the kids from the trap of drugs”.
Mental health issues are being caused due to the abundance of drugs that were not common when the groups were formed, like cocaine, pills and other synthetic substances. These pathologies “not only cause harm to the addict, but to their entire family”. Miguel Alberto Diaz also warns that many children are seeing how some of their classmates are able to buy expensive phones which their parents, with limited means and precarious jobs, cannot afford.
“As we have always said; we either fight the narcos, or they will corrupt anything and undermine the rule of law, as has been happening in other parts of the world … and that is what we are doing our bit to make sure this does not happen here.”