Urban security issues: The "manteros" cases
Year 3 - Week 33
ISSN 2603 - 9931
March 16, 2018, Madrid. Madrid’s local police agents are persecuting an ambulant vendor in the downtown. He runs away towards Lavapies, a cosmopolitan, bohemian neighborhood whose immigration population rates have risen in the last two decades. Once in Lavapies, two other police agents on patrol and not involved in the persecution, jump into a different neighbor who is suffering an epileptic attack, enters in cardiac arrest and has collapsed on the street. The agents, according to the witnesses, stop to assist this man, who happens to be also an ambulant vendor and has in common with the first one that both are Senegalese citizens. Some spokesperson from the Senegalese community and the manteros one claimed that the victim of a heart attack and the persecuted one were in fact the same person, and that the heart attack was a result of being persecuted by the police. The incident, magnified by social networks and with a poor crisis management by the party in Madrid’s City Hall, Ahora Madrid –local branch of the leftist national party Podemos- in an attempt to protect its discourse of support to immigrants and refugees, gave pace to days of riots in Lavapies, turning one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in the Spanish capital into a no-go zone for almost a week, with the presence of anti-riot agents, violent demonstrations and destruction of urban elements.
August 1, 2018, Barcelona. In the also cosmopolitan Platja (Square) de Catalunya. A Spanish woman with a baby-trolley goes through the street but the “manta”, the piece of cloth where the goods sold by the manteros are set, hinders her movement, so she asks them to move it. Somehow the conversation disappoints the manteros and it starts an argument. A Spanish-speaker US tourist comes to help the woman, and the argument turns into a fight when the tourist is attacked by one of the ambulant vendors with a belt, causing him severe injuries both in a leg, with a massive bleeding cut in the femoral artery and other cuts in the head. After being assisted first by the private security agents in a near mall and evacuated by the emergency services, he was taken to a hospital in severe condition.
The manteros is a form of ambulant vending, in many cases connected to the business of the fake goods imported from China. The Spanish name comes from the word manta –a blanket- where these vendors place their stuff for all the day. In the last two decades these illegal business has become common in the main streets of all main European cities, without Madrid or Barcelona being an exception. The vendors are frequently illegal immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, Maghreb or India and Pakistan, who earn a living with this illegal selling, not only because of the offense against intellectual property –as it is the fake goods business-, but also because they don’t pay any kind of tax because of their activity, they don’t have any local license for ambulant vending and they constitute an illicit competence against the commerce legally established. But this normally innocuous although illegal activity has evolved in the last months into something with a violent bias, as aforementioned in the two previous cases. Additionally, since it is a marginal business and it didn’t properly present a security issue, local legislations have been quite lax against it. It is common to see a group of Sub-Saharan guys running away from the police –literally, running- with all their stuff packed inside the blanket; manteros are in very rare occasions apprehended by the police and depending if they carries with them ID documents or not the fine goes from just an economic one to spending the night at a police station until they are identified; in case the stuff they carry with them are falsifications, they may be taken into trial, but again, the manteros rarely present themselves in front of the judge nor do it the companies whose products have been falsified. Due to all these prosecution problems and to the fact that they tackle only one part of the phenomenon, the manteros may go on with their activity with low risks of being disrupted. The last illegal immigration wave amid the so-called “refugee crisis” has only increased the problem, since with finite resources coming from the public administrations and a lucrative illegal and de facto not persecuted business providing a living, many illegal immigrants have engrossed the manteros activity.
Although we can’t talk about a systematic violent behavior in the manteros sector, two different affairs in a short period of time might be considered a red flag, especially for all these incoming travelers to Spain who are not familiar with these kind of activity. The Spanish security sector is a perfectly trained and capable one, but despite of this there is always a response gap or time lapse between the incident and the police and EMS intervention, where the victim is on its own and on the bystanders around him. As we have mentioned, in the case of the US tourist attacked in Barcelona, the first assistance was provided by a private security agent who happened to have previous bleeding control training with our company along a last year course and drill exercise in armed incidents management.
The disruption of a travel because of one incident like the ones mentioned is always disappointing, but it might be especially acute when we are talking about a business travel and even a business travel combined with family vacations on a destiny such as Barcelona. We may advice some tips. Pre-trip intelligence is always desirable about what are the most touristic places, commercial areas and the risks attached to all of them, from pickpocketing to violent actions due to a struggle as the previously mentioned. Revision of medical insurance in case of suffering an attack in the street is also desirable. Supplier assessments as airlines, hotels, ground transportation and car rental suppliers must be pre-considered too. And, in case of need, don’t hesitate in relying on a local security service able to provide from an executive protection detail to a comprehensive risk assessment covering the whole aspects of your trip.