San Antonio has a big problem and the problem is called the ‘West End’. A small lawless area full of excitable young tourists, professional thieves, street-wise prostitutes and a few unscrupulous business people who stop at nothing to earn extra money whilst watching their surroundings go downhill rapidly, not wanting to do anything about it.
The irony is that it was these same unscrupulous business people who went to last Wednesday’s stormy council meeting and hogged all the headlines with their uneducated shoutings towards the democratically elected council who are making good on their promises to ‘clean up’ the town. Whether you agree with the council or not (I don’t but many do) they are only doing what they said they were going to do. No surprises here.
Lost in all the headlines and the hyperbole is the innocent ‘victims’ (I use this term loosely) who have done nothing wrong but find themselves on the sharp end of a new drastic closing time law that will greatly affect their and their families livelihoods for the foreseeable future.
I’m talking about those bar owner/operators who always try to play by the rules hoping this might curry favour with a council administration focussed only on targeting the legal businesses rather than the illegal people ruining the area. Ridiculous fines, over the top laws. In other words attrition by stealth.
As the petty fines are being handed out the elephant in the room is largely being ignored. The elephant of course is the profesional criminals and gangs that go unhindered on most nights with the council consistently hiding behind laws and blaming everyone else apart from themselves for not being on top of the problem, yet they change other laws to suit their election manifestoes. Double standards don’t come much higher than in San Antonio, Ibiza.
Deputy Mayor Pablo Valdes Cardona of the left wing Reinicia Party (an off-shoot of Podemos) has assumed the role of the pantomime villain in many peoples eyes during this whole sorry episode but is only doing what he set out to do: Close down the West End bit by bit in the vain hope that it regenerates itself and becomes a mini Marbella or preferably (for him) the new Santa Eulalia. If you were in any doubt as to his intentions then just look at the writing on the t-shirts he loves to wear in the public eye, it’s usually a good indication of where his head’s at.
The only glitch in Pablo’s masterplan is that there is no actual plan apart from shutting down, prohibiting and taking away. The so-called ‘strategic plan’ for San Antonio is a generic document that could apply to any Spanish seaside town: Better tourists, more spending power, blah blah blah. Many people would be less critical if the council took away with one hand then gave back with the other but so far we haven’t seen anything except for markets displaced, drinking bans in place, opening hours cut, licences suspended, terraces removed.
Where’s the incentives? Where’s the hope? Where’s the confidence in your own town? When a council and its native population perversely enjoy telling the world that San Antonio is a dirty place full of drunk British tourists then don’t blame the outside world for standing up and taking notice.
But the reality is completely different. San Antonio is a wonderful place full of life and ambition with entrepreneurs trying to change things step by step but coming up against obstacles on a daily basis. So many great things about San Antonio yet a few renegade businesses garner all the negative headlines and fashion people’s perceptions.
With elections only a year away expect plenty more council negativity as the coalition tries to paint it black and deliver it grey as a way of justifying their actions, appealing to their core voters who want revolution now not evolution over the next 10 years. San Antonio could be the best place in the world if a forward thinking local government was in place who chose to focus on the positives whilst dealing effectively with the negatives.
A coalition council with a ‘retired’ socialist mayor, an idealist radical left wing deputy mayor and a minority centre right party who don’t seem to have any influence doesn’t instil the tourist industry (our only commodity) with confidence. History has proven that coalitions rarely work and this appears to be the case in San Antonio’s town hall and it’s the innocent ‘victims’ of radical decisions who have my sympathy right now, not the loudmouths in the back row of a council meeting.