23 April 2022: The Cocaine Coast; Bloody e-scooterists; Sparrows & cats; Ukraine, Russia, Germany& France: & Other stuff

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Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain

Cosas de España/Galiza 

I regularly mention that I live on what Netflix calls The Cocaine Coast. The first article  below something relevant from the Diario de Pontevedra of a day or so ago. In the form of an interview.

Talking of the law . .  The police have just had one of the campaigns they favour, in preference to constant policing, it seems. This one was aimed at PMV riders and it’s reported that 33 summonses were issued between 4 and 10 April. I’ll report on the effectiveness of this ‘blitz’ in due course. Unless I’m mown down and killed on one of the city’s pavements.

In case you didn’t read the article on Galician feismo, cited yesterday, I’m highlighting one comment that merited my agreement: Apart from the unfinished or unpainted houses, there are finished buildings without which we would be much better off. I’m thinking of the ultra-modern houses here built of great vertical slabs of granite.

Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas says that sparrows are reported to be on the decline in Spain, as they are elsewhere. Ironically, although mine are kept from the feeders by greedy greenfinches, I think I saw some flying out of my roof this morning. Anyway, given the vast number of birds killed by cats, someone has come up with the suggestion that cat-free areas are created in our cities. At least as regards the feral variety. Seems like a very good idea to me.    


This lovely [and sensible] country will treat British travellers as EU citizens at its borders to cut airport queues. Forcing Spain to follow suit?

The UK 

Private Eye has contrasted these numbers:- 

– Payments to fraudsters under Covid support schemes, £13 billion 

– Net payments to support households with energy bills, £4 billion 


Margaret Thatcher was right to fear German unification. The Ukraine crisis has shown that Germany is paradoxically both too powerful and too weak. See the 2nd article below.

The EU

Taking the moral low ground . . . The European Commission was this month forced to close a loophole in its blockade after it was found that at least 10 member states exported almost €350m in arms to Putin’s regime. Some 78% of that was supplied by German and French firms. The equipment sent included bombs, rockets, missiles and guns, despite an EU-wide embargo on arms shipments introduced in the wake of the 2014 annexation of Crimea.


RT – Russia Today


Why Russia wants Donbas

The Way of the World

‘Review merging’: A marketing tactic designed to make a product appear more appealing to consumers looking to make a quick purchase. It means that, if you check out the positive reviews on Amazon, you might well find that almost all of them are for completely different products.  

Quote of the Day

The man who paid $2.9m for the NFT of the first tweet is set to lose almost $2.9m when he sells it. The highest bid is $6,000, which compares with his hoped for price of “at least $25m”. You have to laugh. But also cry at the thought of how much money this cretin must have. Details here.


Ultrarraro: ‘Extremely odd’. Note the double R in the middle, because raro has to be pronounced as if the first R is a double R. As all first-letter Rs are.


To dox(x): ‘To search for and publish private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the internet, typically with malicious intent’.  The term ‘dox’ derives from the slang “dropping dox,” which was “an old-school revenge tactic that emerged from hacker culture in 1990s”. Hackers operating outside the law in that era used the breach of an opponent’s anonymity as a means to expose opponents to harassment.

Finally . . . 

It took me 30 seconds or so to get this:-

For new reader(s): If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.


1. “Galician drug traffickers make a lot of money and will look for ways to continue to do so”     

ECO* Galicia began fighting groups of Albanians dedicated to residential robberies, but soon specialized in drug trafficking. In 2022 it operates worldwide from its base in Pontevedra. A few weeks ago, members of the unit were in Brazil, for example, investigating one of the largest drug trafficking networks on a planetary scale in collaboration with the DEA. This Friday it will receive the Golden Necora aaward.

What does this award mean to you?

It is a source of pride that an entity like this one remembers us and values the effort and work that this unit has been doing for 16 years. This reinforces us and also encourages us to continue with our work because, at the end of the day, we owe it to society. We are very aware that this is not an award for a specific job, but for the trajectory of a unit that has been fighting the large organizations in the northwest of the peninsula for a long time. We had difficulties at the beginning. The unit was understaffed and had to redouble its efforts, and it did not have much experience. Over time, we adapted and learned the behavior of the Galician organizations. We grew and obtained great results. We can mention the Marea Negra operation – the narco-submarine operation -, the Cetil operation, which exploded in September 2020, and the Jockey operation, in 2012, in which 100 kilos of heroin were seized in Baixo Miño. They managed to put many people behind bars who were trafficking in this area.

With the operation of the narco-boats we have given them a good blow that will not be the last, there are more organizations dedicated to this.

How has drug trafficking evolved in Galicia?

It has changed a lot. This is a business that is assimilated to the business environment and its only purpose is to make money. They are criminal enterprises that seek to obtain large profits. The situation today is still influenced by the brutal overproduction of cocaine in Colombia. The organizations intend to sell it in Europe, and Spain is one of the main entry points. The statistics show that the quantities seized are becoming larger and larger. Traditionally the Galician organizations used fishing boats and other large vessels. Now they are using more sailboats, and also containers. In the latter case, they need less economic capacity, as they need to involve fewer people to achieve their objectives. This reduces their risks and increases their profitability.

Addictions to online gambling and social networks are the new ‘fariñas’.

There is talk of new clans, have they changed that much?

There used to be well-known clans, which operated under the hierarchical figure of the boss, the leader. They all had a sense of belonging to the organization and worked at its service. They were also characterized by their ability to carry out all the necessary actions to bring a shipment to the Galician coast. Today there are still organizations with this capacity, but others have spread that work as cooperatives, so that some are dedicated to the manufacture of boats, others provide pilots to pick up shipments at sea and introduce them, others provide the infrastructure and logistics necessary to distribute or deliver the merchandise to the owners of the drugs…. They ally with each other. Before there were four or five historical clans, in a more pyramidal way. Now it is more transversal.

Is it possible to put an end to this?

This business worked 30 years ago, continues to work today and will continue to do so. It is impossible to eradicate. The State Security Forces and Corps try to be a containment dike for them, but to talk about eradicating this problem is utopian.

Before, they depended more on the boss. Now they are like cooperatives that operate transversally.

Let’s talk about the recent narco-boat operation.

It is of great importance. We are aware that it is a serious problem for this Autonomous Community. There are several patterns. The first one has to do with people who have thought that the manufacture of narco-boats is a way of obtaining money, knowing that the penalties to be imposed for smuggling, if they can be linked to it, are less than those imposed on those who are captured in relation to a sailboat or a fishing boat with cocaine. The organizations in Campo de Gibraltar have a lot of confidence in the type of boats that the Galicians build, they are aware of their capacity. And the Galicians know that it is a way to get good money for doing something they have been doing all their lives and that they are good at, which is making boats. They are very different from the boats used in Galicia, because they are destined for the Alboran Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar. There are groups that are dedicated to that exclusively. On the other hand, there are people who take advantage of that money to reinvest it in operations that give them much more profit, those of cocaine trafficking. With this operation we have given them a good blow, but it is not the only organization and it will not be the last, there are many more.

And they count on Portugal.

That is true. As long as Portugal does not harmonize its legislation with that of Spain, the organizations will continue to take advantage of it. They can manufacture the boats there legally, and it is logical that they will try to set up their business there. In this operation we have been able to reach them.

The Galicians earn up to €100,000 for each narco-boat put to sea.

How could they be more effective in their fight?

It would be necessary to reinforce the units, both in terms of human and material resources. Also the creation of specialized drug trafficking courts, as already exist in other areas, such as violence against women. If we had such courts exclusively, the fight against drug trafficking would be more agile. The Anti-Drug Prosecutor’s Office should be strengthened, as is being done elsewhere. We also need progress in the field of new technologies. They are ahead of the curve; a large investment in this area would be necessary.

How do you see the immediate future?

Despite the work that is being done, I have no doubt that as long as the business is profitable there will continue to be people who become part of the Galician clans. They are like big companies, they make a lot of money, and they will look for ways to continue doing so. They will continue to use sailboats, innovating and introducing new routes to smuggle their cocaine stashes.

The Security Forces are a containment dike, but putting an end to this is utopian.

There is a political proposal to regulate marijuana, what do you think?

It would be very dangerous in Spain. They are substances that seriously damage health. There are young people who bet on it, but we think it is a very high risk. It is true that there are sectors that idealize the figure of the drug addict. The prevention work of entities such as the Foundation and the talks given by the security forces seem essential to me. It is essential.

Major milestones of ECO Galicia

2012 Operation Jockey: Pepe Pallanas’ network was dismantled. He was hiding a large cache of heroin in a pig farm in the south of the province. He moved quantities to supply Galicia and Portugal.

2014 Operation Alibavari: An international group made up of Dutch, Colombians, Paraguayans and Spaniards was involved in drug trafficking, robberies and arms trafficking. The ECO seized a large amount of cocaine.

2019 The narco-submarine: The media seizure of the Aldán semi-submersible was coordinated from the operational point of view by the ECO, which operated in conjunction with Customs and Cuerpo Nacional de Policía.

2020 Operation Cetil: Europol named this raid, which began in the Port of Marín and resulted in the seizure of six tons of cocaine in several ports, as the most important operation of the year on the continent.

* Equipo Contra el Crimen Organizado

2. Margaret Thatcher was right to fear German unification. The Ukraine crisis has shown that Germany is paradoxically both too powerful and too weak: Jeremy Warner, The Telegraph 

Rewind 32 years to one of those moments of great euphoria in European affairs – the reunification of West and East Germany. The celebrations were by no means confined to Germany. There was rejoicing too in the US and much of the rest of the West, for Germany’s rebirth as a single country seemed powerfully symbolic of the end of the Cold War and the defeat of communism.

Both these two latter outcomes had long been the primary foreign policy goal of Britain’s then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. But German reunification? This was regarded in No 10 with great suspicion and foreboding. Thatcher’s doubts have in many ways proved prophetic, no more so than in Germany’s deeply ambivalent attitude to today’s war in Ukraine, where Berlin seems, Janus-like, to face both ways.

On the one hand it stands shoulder to shoulder with the US and Britain in condemning Putin’s invasion, but on the other continues to buy his oil, gas and coal, and refuses to supply the Ukrainian government with the heavy weaponry it needs to defend itself.

Nominally part of the Western alliance, there is a strong element of Russlandversteher or Putinversteher (one who at least understands where Russia and Putin are coming from) in Germany’s position. Germans have always taken Russia far more seriously than anyone else in the West; there’s an almost mystical sense of connection, bound up as it is with history, culture and longing for the awesome expanse of the Russian hinterland.

If the purpose of Nato is “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down”, as articulated by Nato’s first secretary general Lord Ismay, then despite the atrocities they visited on each other during the Second World War, there is a certain sense of pariah comradeship between these two great nations. In any case, regime change is not in Berlin’s thinking; rather its preferred solution is a deal that would satisfy Putin’s concerns and restore relations to the ex ante position of supposedly benign engagement. This undoubtedly would have horrified Mrs Thatcher, and frankly at this stage looks unrealistic anyway. It is hard to imagine things returning to the way they were. The biggest loser from today’s now seemingly irreversible divorce is likely to be the German economy. Nor is it just about the loss of access to cheap Russian gas. Of greater long-term significance are the risks of fragmentation in the world economy into different blocs, each with its own technological standards, cross-border payments systems and reserve currencies. This would be little short of disastrous for the industrial heartlands of the Rhine, grown rich as they have on 30 years of globalisation and international integration. Berlin hoped for Wandel durch Handel – that alien systems of governance such as China and Russia could be civilised into Western ways through commerce. It’s not turning out that way. German alarm bells are ringing as rarely before. 

My reading of Charles Moore’s masterful biography of Mrs Thatcher is that her objections to German reunification were three-fold. First, that it would make Germany too powerful a force in Europe, but secondly, it would also be an enfeebling influence that gave low priority to defence – too powerful in other words to be easily contained by the rest of Europe, but too weak, resented, peace-loving and riddled with war guilt to act as a unifying force, let alone a meaningful superpower. Thirdly, she thought that monetary union – the price that France and others demanded for agreeing to reunification – would be a disaster both for the EU and Britain’s position within it. On all counts, she was proved largely correct.

An economically all-powerful Germany has not, on the whole, been good for the rest of Europe, where competing interests are routinely subjugated to those of the Germans. Refusal on Germany’s part to take the economic pain of immediate disengagement from Russian energy is contrasted with the harsh austerity imposed by Berlin on feckless smaller nations during the eurozone debt crisis.

The degree of economic damage that would be inflicted on Germany by an immediate embargo on Russian oil and gas is impossible to know until it is tried, but even if at the extreme high end of the range of forecasts – a 6 per cent hit to output – it would be as nothing compared to what Greece suffered a decade ago at the hands of the high priests of monetary union; the longest and deepest recession ever recorded in an advanced economy. German officials excuse their failure to act by insisting that an immediate boycott of Russian gas is likely to have destabilising economic effects both on Germany and Europe more widely. The long-term social, political and geo-strategic consequences could therefore be far worse than the moral disgrace of lending continued succour to Putin’s illegal rampage.

It’s all history now, but how different Europe might have looked had it pursued Mrs Thatcher’s favoured alternative when the Wall came down of a separate, but democratic East Germany. Trapped by its history, Germany is again proving to be Europe’s shameful undoing.

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