A snow storm that had 3,000 vehicles trapped on a motorway in the Province of Segovia on Saturday night has transformed into a political storm with calls for those responsible to resign.
When we say ‘those responsible’ we mean those responsible for failing to act in time, but the Central Government is busy passing the buck.
The Minister of the Interior, who was photographed watching a football match in Sevilla rather than being at his desk, blames the private company that runs the AP-6, for not making provisions.
The fact is that this was an Operación Retorno (mass road use at the end of a holiday period by motorists returning to their place of residence – all traffic-police leave is cancelled for these periods and special provisions are put in force). For this reason, the Head of the DGT should have been on duty.
The said company blames the drivers for not being prepared; i.e., not having snow chains, whilst the opposition parties en-bloque are calling for the Head of the DGT (National Traffic Department), along with the Minister of the Interior, to resign.
The fact is that the toll booths continued to allow motorists to access the motorway, charging them the toll fee, despite knowing that thousands of cars were already trapped and that the snow ploughs couldn’t get through.
The DGT, who should also have issued warning for motorist not to use the AP-6, did no such thing – the Head was on holiday in Sevilla, too.
Drivers trapped during the whole night, in some cases up to 14 hours, were running out of petrol to keep the heating in the cars going and the Guardia Civil Traffic Police were conspicuous by their absence at first because of bad management at the top.
And this is where the media archives are coming back to bite the Prime Minister because in 2009, in a similar situation where thousands were trapped in their cars owing to adverse weather conditions and a lack of administrative action, Mariano Rajoy, who was still an opposition leader back then, called for the Minister of the Interior to resign, claiming sarcastically that the said minister hadn’t twigged that it had been snowing… And here we are in 2018 with the boot on the other foot. He claims that the situation “is not the same.”
But it’s not the first time that the PM has been caught out by media archives because, again when he was in the opposition, he had scathing words for the then PM, Zapatero, for raising the IVA tax from 16% to 18%. He said that “raising taxes were the sign of a bad leader.” Yet as soon as he came to power he raised IVA from 18% to 21%…
No matter how much the Government is trying to shove the blame onto the company that runs the AP-6, saying it has nothing to do with the Government, the fact is that no matter if a road is in private hands, public administrations are responsible for them; even privately run motorways with toll booths are policed by the Guardia Civil Traffic Police, which is a clear enough indication that the buck stops at the top; i.e., with the Minister of the Interior.
One last incident is worth mentioning. Four young men, trapped in their car, recorded a call that they had made to the 112 emergency number. It was their second call in four hours and they were getting desperate. The female operator said that nobody would be coming to their aid and that they were old enough to know better than to go out without snow-chains. The caller replied that they were in a 4-wheel-drive SUV, which is why they didn’t have chains. At this point the supervisor came onto the line and told them the same as the female operator in a very sarcastic manner and cut off the call.
As the caller later said to the press, when you call an emergency number you expect help, not sarcasm – “fine me, but at least help,” he reasoned.