My Story Up Til Now

ALMERIA – I

It is well past midnight and I have just finished dinner at a late night bistro. I am thankful for some relief from the paralyzing heat. A slight breeze is now blowing down over the flagstones of the narrow pedestrian mall in the center of the old town of Almeria. Most restaurants’ pavement side tables are beginning to empty. It is Thursday night and the “marcha” in Almeria, a small agricultural city, is certainly not half as frantic as in central Madrid or the Ramblas in Barcelona. I distractedly watch the waiters in white shirts and uncomfortable looking black ties clearing up for the night in some of the many restaurants lining up both sides of the passageway.

I drink the last of the red wine I had ordered along with the grilled veal and deviled potatoes. I ask the waiter for some decaf along with the bill. It is time to return to the Hotel. It seems to me that the man wants me to go as soon as possible too. It is early July and is already hot, hot, hot in Spain, and Almeria, is in the deepest point in the South facing the Med.

Earlier yesterday morning, Thursday, I had asked the taxi driver taking me to this city all the way from Valencia to stop for about 15 minutes at a deserted beach not far from the town. I still feel the pleasure I felt after jumping in and playing in the surf washing away the dust from the journey along the belly of Spain. I didn’t know it then, but that was going to be the last time I went into any sea that summer. If my darkly scheming enemies had had their way, I would never have swam again in an ocean, at least for the next 35 years. Just as well then I had enjoyed it so much that late afternoon. With the sun setting over the waves in the far away African coast well beyond my view.

From Barcelona, where I had carried out my first interviews, to Valencia, where I did a couple more, I had gone by train. However, a Taxi ride was the only way to get in time for my next appointment in Almeria. That would cost the project about the same as an airfare to New York but it would allow me to complete the job in the stipulated nine days.

After having had dinner in Almeria, I feel now rather optimistic and ready for a good night sleep. Next morning, last day before a weekend in which I intended to take advantage of the Med’s warm waters, I would deal with the penultimate interview of the nine I had lined up. I am on a field trip for a London firm researching on behalf of the Japanese Company Yamaha‘s why some of their dealerships in Spain were substantially better than others at selling their 4 wheel drive motorcycles.

The trip had gone well. None of my fears when I accepted the job had materialized and I was now 85 % of the entire Spanish part of the job done. I should be back in London on Monday evening after hitting Madrid in the morning of that day for the last interview of the study. In London I would feel again a little more than relatively safe from the claws of Mr. Bush’s post 9-11 inspired wave of “Patriot Act” style crypto-fascist measures against “terrorism”. Then, I would complete my report and I would bill my client for my fees and expenses as a freelance consultant. As they say, another day, another dollar.

I had entered Spain via Barcelona coming from London with a change of planes at Niort in France. I had the idea that if I avoided Madrid, the obvious point of entry coming from the UK, I may better elude the noose I suspected the Peruvian government in general, and the Peruvian ambassador in Madrid, the now infamous “Popy” Olivera in particular, had been craftily laying out for me.

My fears had been based on nothing more than general feelings. To my wife and friends in London all those fears had quite obviously felt a bit of paranoia on my part. The idea that “something” could happen to me “while traveling in Spain” and in relation to my “political activities and sympathies vis a vis the Peruvian regime”, had been in fact the result of a number of “pointers” I had vaguely noted happening around me.

First, there was the general atmosphere of deterioration of civil liberties brought about in Europe as a result of 9-11. Then, there was that time a few months before when Hariette and me, were returning from a trip to Egypt. When I had already gone thru immigration controls and after having being “welcomed home” by a nice and polite guy in Gatwick airport, the man suddenly came, faced blanched, chasing after me and pleading with me to come back for a moment. “Mr. Olaechea, Mr. Olaechea, please, please, could you come back a moment while I check a little irregularity in your status, please, please, sir?”……

He kept apologizing while I handed him back my passport. He then went for about 3 minutes into a nearby office before returning and smiling and apologizing again. He, welcomed me back again into England with some vague explanation about Peru and Interpol. I thought it was just a bureaucratic hang over from the time, back in 1993, when Fujimori had demanded my extradition from Britain and being turned down by the British government of the day (Margaret Thatcher).

Finally, a few weeks before, in Northern Italy, one of the members of the La Torre family, the relatives of “Norah”, the by now dead comrade and wife of “Chairman Gonzalo”, aka Abimael Guzman, the Shining Path guerrilla leader in Peru, had been arrested and was now subject of extradition proceedings. The La Torres’ had been living in exile in Sweden since before the start of the Shining Path’s rebellion. This young man La Torre, arrested when he moved from Sweden into Northern Italy to live with his Italian partner, had probably been a child when he last had been in Peru. Not that such thing had ever bothered the persecution machinery of the Peruvian state. They were also dubbing him as an “ambassador” of Shining Path.

Then there were too those snippets of news I had glanced from reading Peruvian news in the web. “Popy Olivera”, the side kick of Alejandro Toledo, then president of Peru, had been traveling between Madrid and Rabat in Morocco, signing “cooperation agreements” between Peru and those governments.. Coincidentally, Morocco and Spain had been two of the last four countries I had been either on holiday or doing Market Research for my London clients. I vaguely felt that a noose was being laid to trap me away from England where the schemes of the Peruvian state had cut no ice in the past. Spain under the Aznar government, definitely felt as a more dangerous place for me.

That had worried me when I was asked to do the job I was now doing in Spain. I tried to talk about those fears with Hariette, my wife. She felt I was being paranoid and refused to even talk about what to do in case I was arrested in Spain. Finally I got her to accept me to create a file in her computer with the names and phone numbers of people to contact in case a mishap of a political nature happened to me in while in Spain.

The waiter now comes with the bill. I hand over my credit card as I go on musing on how the last few days had gone better than I hoped. In Barcelona I had met with Ale, my good friend and associate in Justice International. She was now living there with her Catalan boyfriend, and we all had a great time in the Barcelona cava cellars we had time to hit before I took off for Valencia. That really had put me in an excellent mood and since everything was going fine with the job at hand, I was really looking forward to do my interview in Almeria on Friday, and then I would relax the rest of the weekend at the nearest seaside resort. Why not enjoy life while it lasts?

JOSE LUIS

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