International Writers Magazine: Guard your luggage
Marañon is a local businessman in Cacún, Mexico,
a Spaniard who emigrated there 15 years earlier and runs the Oasis
hotel, one of the most prestigious on the peninsula. He is also
the Honorary Spanish Consul for the region.
On Monday, 9th of
October, he received a call from the local police station advising him
that a Spanish citizen had been arrested on charges of illegal possession
of arms. The police officer did not expand on the details; pretty normal
circumstances in the arrest of a foreigner. He put the phone down, thought
for a moment and then reached down to the bottom drawer of his desk
and took out his consular diary. He entered the time, 09.30,
and the name of the Spaniard, Ana María Rios followed
by a simple comment, arrested, waiting charges. He walked
out of his office and into the foyer of the hotel. At the reception
desk he called over to the clerk on duty, Im down at the
police station. Call me on my mobile for any emergency. He turned
and walked out of the hotel.
When he arrived at the police station he was greeted by the officer
on duty who then briefed him on the case. The suspect was about
to board an aircraft back to Spain when the customs officials found
illegal weaponry in one of her suitcases, said the officer. May
I see the report? responded Javier. After it was handed to him
and he read through the information as well as Ana Marías
declaration, he looked up at the policeman and said, a few empty
cartridges and parts of some sort of detonator, do you call
these arms? The officer refused to comment. I wish to speak
to the prisoner!
A few minutes later, Jaiver was with Ana María and the full ordeal
came to light.
Ana María came from a small village called Canicouva in the Province
of Pontevedra but travelled daily to neighbouring Arcade where she ran
a small hairdressing saloon. The town, 5 miles from the city of Vigo,
is famous all over Spain for its oyster beds and caters for the major
part of this sector of the seafood industry. Young, not necessarily
beautiful, Ana María had just got married to Marcos Da Silva
and like many honeymooning couples they decided to cross the Atlantic
to the warm and sunny beaches of the Caribbean. They had discarded Santo
Domingo or Puerto Rico, two other Spanish speaking holiday areas and
decided for the third, yet still extremely popular resort in Cancun.
Little did they know what was in store for them as they completed their
romantic holiday, readying for a future of starting a family.
At the airport, after having checked in at the airline desk, they proceeded
to the usual security check point, placed their hand luggage through
the scanners and crossed into the final search area prior to the exit
lounge for some duty free purchases or the odd drink before boarding
the aircraft. During a last minute search of Ana Marías
hand luggage, some empty military cartridges fell out onto
the floor and a small piece, not even the full mechanism
of an explosive detonator was found. It is not necessary to go into
the details of what happened next.
Back in Spain, the news ran through the village like a bolt of lightning.
Ana Marías mother, Gloria Bemposta and her uncle, Roberto
Manuel Alvarez were on the next plane to Mexico The local press and
television stations was immediately sending out their envoys to pick
up on the story. In the meantime, the General Spanish Consulate in Mexico
had flashed the information back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
in Madrid who reacted in the normal manner of caution awaiting
the results of the accusation during the investigation of criminal offences
in another countrys jurisdiction. The President of the Regional
government of Galicia was another high ranking politician who offered
his moral support. But this did not necessarily help in
Ana Maria´s plight. After all, she had supposedly been caught
red handed with bellicose material that could be used as
evidence of involvement in terrorist movements in Mexico.
It was a smart newspaper reporter sent out from the Atlantico
in Vigo who researched a similar, yet more sinister case that happened
at the same airport a month prior to the Spaniards ordeal. Alejandra
Rey, a veteran news envoy from the Argentine newspaper La Nacion
was with a team of reporters sent to Cancun to cover the events of hurricane
Wilma, when this time, during her entry into the country
on a flight from Buenos Aires with a stopover in Panama, none other
than 44 kilos of cocaine were found in two of her suitcases. Her plea
of innocence, similar to Ana Marias was simple; someone or some
persons had handled her luggage during the flight or the transit through
the airports, whilst said luggage was out of her possession. Although
both cases are difficult to prove, the rationale makes sense. Why
should I be so stupid as to blatantly bring in this amount of drugs,
when Im here on a genuine news reporting assignment for my newspaper?
Ana Maria´s case was even more bizarre. A member of a honeymooning
couple, from a small remote village in Galicia, who had never ventured
out into the inhospitable world of arms dealing or terrorism is suddenly
trying to smuggle out of a Latin American country a bunch
of used bullet cartridges and a piece of junk that looked like a detonator
and hence bundled into jail to await trial! Its preposterous!
Thus was the resounding message in the newspapers on either side of
So whats the beef behind all this then?
Speculation is twofold. In Alejandras case, it was a simple try
it and see by the drug barons trying to smuggle in cocaine to
the north of America. Switch suitcases in mid stream and if she was
not caught, someone would soon be waiting to take over the two suitcases
full of the white sniffing rubbish and dismiss her with a stupid look
on her face. The theory in Ana Marias case was for the same reason
but with a different twist. Cause a rumpus in one area of the airport
by sending in all the troops and machinegun totting guards whilst at
the other end, in a supposedly unguarded area, our same
drug barons would be moving the same stuff from different area, different
flight, and different arrival.
Sound like stories out of one of John le Carres novels? Probably.
We writers know that truth and fiction go hand in hand in most novels
yet when horror stories actually happen to living human beings like
both Alejandra and Ana Maria, the reality show ends and the real drama
My advice on holidaying in todays screwed up world? Stay at home
and watch the travel channels on television.
© James Skinner. November 2006.
James is the Honorary Consul in Vigo Spain
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