Nightclub crime tarnishes festive Madrid
The beating death of a teenager outside a popular nightclub and deadly shootouts linked to a battle by rival gangs for control of Madrid's profitable bouncer business has tarnished this city's reputation.Violent incidents in this traditionally placid city appear to be on the rise, as police say a "nightclub war" between "The Miami," made up mostly of Spaniards, and "The Bulgarians" made up mainly of eastern Europeans, has intensified recently.
Their battle claimed the spotlight overnight Sunday when two people were killed and three injured in a shooting at the Heaven nightclub in the historic city centre.
The dead include the nightclub's head bouncer, a 31-year-old Romanian facing kidnapping charges, who is the reported lieutenant of "The Bulgarians," according to El Pais daily.
The same night a Colombian man was seriously injured after he was shot in the head at the door of the Fala Fala nightclub, located about one kilometre (half-a-mile) away, in an apparently unrelated incident.
The general spike in violence was also underscored last November, when 18-year-old Alvaro Ussia, who had no previous police record, was allegedly beaten to death by a doorman at the entrance to the Balcon de Rosales nightclub.
Earlier this month a gunman also fired four shots at suspected Colombian druglord Leonidas Vargas, 60, as he lay in his Madrid hospital bed, killing him instantly.
"In recent days we have seen a few incidents which force us to include the fight against organized crime in Madrid and the surrounding region amongst our priorities," Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said Tuesday, specifically referring to the nightclub shootings.
He said police suspected the shootings at the Heaven nightclub were linked to the turf battle by the rival gangs. Police are still uncertain about the motives of the second shooting at Fala Fala.
Still, Francisco Granados, a senior official in Madrid's regional government who is responsible for security in the capital, warned that "organized crime had largely gained control of Madrid's nightlife."
Despite the recent high-profile crimes, Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon said Thursday the Spanish capital was still safer than other major European cities.
"We will never reduce our attention to the question of security but when it comes to this issue, the crime figures show that we are doing better than other big urban areas in Europe like London or Paris," he told reporters.
The government is also trying to crack down on the nighttime violence.
Shortly after Ussia's death, Madrid authorities closed several popular nightclubs and a concert hall found to be violating safety and other regulations and vowed to introduce stricter laws for bouncers.
But critics say more must be done. Many Madrid bouncers are suspected of running rather than stopping the sale of drugs in nightclubs and of resorting to muscle power to collect bad debts related to the purchase of narcotics.
Last year a magazine published extracts from a wiretap of a telephone conversation between a popular television actress known for her active love life, in which she reportedly asked a member of "The Miami" to beat up a television journalist -- an incident which highlighted the violent nature of the group.
AFP/ Pierre Ausseill/ Expatica