Thursday, August 01, 2013

Crash revelations; and The Spanish character

The Santiago crash: It's a saga of creeping revelations. On Sunday we were told there were no phone conversations held by the driver at the time of accident. He admitted to being distracted without knowing why. On Tuesday we learnt he'd received a call on his business mobile but no information was given as to the caller. Last night it emerged that the call came from the conductor on the train and that its purpose was to ask the driver to park the train at the platform which would be most convenient for a particular family on board, at a station between Santiago and Ferrol. So, a very Spanish request for a personal favour. But with horrendous consequences.

Undoubtedly in shock, the driver may or may not have lied to hide this breach of company regulations but the conductor certainly did. He never mentioned it in his statements to the police and the judge and he initially denied it yesterday, when El País asked him about a call. I assume he'll be arrested very soon, if he hasn't been already.

As we await further revelations, Asdif and RENFE have announced that, even though the crash had nothing to do with their management of the track and the trains, they are revising their safety procedures. Which begs a few more questions, of course.

As with most nationals, I guess, the Spanish can be more acute observers of themselves than foreigners can. Talking to a friend the other day about the way the Spanish media quickly sets up individuals as figures of hate - the captain of the Prestige, Madeleine McCann's mother, the driver of the Santiago train, for example - he commented that this was the most Latin aspect of the Spanish and the way in which they most resembled South Americans. I have no idea whether this is true or not but, if it is, then it must be safe to assume that the government is not only aware of this tendency but capable of using it to manipulate the people at a time like this. Indeed, this is exactly what the Aznar government tried to do in immediately blaming the 2004 Madrid bombings on the Basque terrorist group, ETA. However, these attempts were so premature and so cack-handed they backfired. And an election was lost as a result.

The most obvious of examples of attempted manipulation around the Santiago tragedy were the immediate attempts by Adif, RENFE and the national government to exculpate themselves and inculpate the driver and the attempt by the regional president, Sr Feijoo, to raise the spectre of foreign commercial interests taking advantage of the crash to besmirch the reputation of Spain's high-speed train industry.

One Spanish commentator has made the point that the Spanish people are obsessed with their rights but rather less concerned with their obligations and responsibilities. As he said, no one ever resigns for anything here. Certainly not politicians and, though it's possible that Sr Rajoy will today admit in parliament that he and his colleagues were receiving illegal back-handers for several years from an illegal slush-fund, there's no possibility whatsoever that anyone will fall on his or her sword. As they say, a people gets the politicians it deserves. Something needs to change in the attitudes of the populace here before politicians will change for the better. A small start would be to stop voting crooks back into power.

Finally . . . Eight years after construction began and 2 years after it finished, it's looking like the houses behind mine will finally be occupied. Or at least made ready for sale. Electricity has been connected and a car-park type barrier has been installed on the access road. Which will upset the two 'wild' dogs which have been using it as a sleeping area, conveniently close to the rubbish bins. Progress.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

I do not know how this works elsewhere (perhaps you, as a lawyer, can enlighten me, dear C.) but I understood from the reporting of previous scandals that in Spain the accused has the legal right to lie to the police and investigating magistrate when interrogated. I assume the accused is not under oath at that moment.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Colin for your message yesterday. I had not heard about the ticket inspector's involvement. Creeping revelations indeed.

Media say the driver went to the judge to inform him. Maybe previously he was protecting his colleague. Ticket inspector is reported to have confirmed this. Here are some English links which mention it.

The latter also refers to requests by the Investigating Judge for the driver's drug test results and cellphone records. Also his psychological tests, illnesses, experience and working hours, as well as information about the track, speed limits and work procedures of train staff.

You talk today of how Spanish media quickly sets up individuals as figures of hate, I think this is not particularly a Spanish trait. All media indulge in it, indeed it is a human failing.

You also talk of attempts by various people/bodies to inculpate the driver. This reads like you consider the driver could be found innocent, or only slightly to blame.

I know all persons are innocent until proven guilty and the driver has not been found guilty in a court of law, but I would suggest the driver is deep in the do-do, or would you say I am being too inculpatory?

In your defence I would inculpate the Ticket Inspector, the person(s) who decided to run the train on the high speed rail without automatic mechanical safeguards and the person(s) who decided it was OK for the driver to have phone(s) in his cab - And, well the list goes on.

But saying all that, I cannot see how the driver can escape a giant slice of the blame, can you?

Thank you again for your blog.


Anonymous said...


The Independent newspaper today has a scary video purporting to show train drivers in Buenos Aires not paying attention.


Colin said...

@Alfie. I'm told that an imputado has the constitutional right to stay silent or to lie. Am checking the CC provision.

Sierra said...

They've been working for 6 or 7 years on straightening a bend (two tunnels and a long viaduct required)on the Lugo to Sarria railway line - progress seems to be geared to budgetary restraints. Wonder if this will move up Ana Pastor's "to do" list in the circumstances - assuming the line isn't closed due to lack of use in the meantime.

Anonymous said...

Colin, I read somewhere you are/were a lawyer, so you will be able to answer this question.

Since Francisco José Garzón Amo has been provisionally charged with multiple cases of reckless homicide, has his legal status now changed from imputado to acusado?

Making your comment to @Alfi above rather academic?

This piece sounds sensible, but was not written by a lawyer and is now a few days behind events.

Regards, Q1-10

Colin said...


You also talk of attempts by various people/bodies to inculpate the driver. This reads like you consider the driver could be found innocent, or only slightly to blame.

No, what I was objecting to was the immediate insistence that it could only be the driver who was to blame, days before we began to learn what had happened, as we still are doing. One egregious example was a UK paper which - copying the Spanish - called him a speed freak.

One possibility - now discountable - was that there'd been a failing in the warnings syste.

But there remain larger questions about security/safety systems and my view has always been there might be more people than the driver in the dock.

Colin said...

Oh, and I agree with your list. But the judge has announced that the ticket collector has nothing to aswer for.

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