Seven days that shook Spain

18th March 2004, Comments 0 comments

A week after the devastating terrorist attacks in Madrid, life in Spain has been turned upside down. A new anger and wariness are mixed with some optimism as new government takes power. Graham Keeley looks at the difference seven days has made to lif

The people who died or were injured were in the path of the direct blast

At about 7.39am  on 11 March ten explosions tore through three rail stations in Madrid.

So far, 202 people have lost their lives and more than 1,600 were injured.

The people who died or were injured, travelling on those trains, commuting to work or perhaps going to school, were in the path of the direct blast.

Beyond these victims, hundreds of families have been devastated by losing loved ones.

Others are trying to come to terms with the realisation that their husbands or girlfriends may live the rest of their lives in wheelchairs or with permanent disfigurements.

Eight children who go to the same Madrid school and were all orphaned in the blasts must grow up without mothers or fathers.

Zapatero is reluctant to admit his victory was solely down to the bombings

Apart from these people, thousands of those who dealt with the horrifying attacks just a week ago are still coming to terms with the shock now.

Simply put, nothing has been the same since.

Aside from the obvious shock, trauma and distress the bombs caused, it seems the terrorist attacks changed Spain fundamentally.

Angered at the way their government reacted to this national crisis, Spaniards voted in the Socialists. The result shocked those inside and outside Spain.

The Partido Popular lost the election despite a series of polls which predicted it would win; Spain's healthy economic outlook was enough to give voters an appetite for another four years of the PP.

*quote1*But others realised that outgoing prime minister Jose Maria Aznar's support for the Iraq war was a fundamental mistake.

Polls during the invasion showed 80 percent of Spaniards opposed military action.

With hindsight, the right-wing El Mundo newspaper, which formerly backed the Partido Popular (PP), said the party should now recognise exactly why it lost power.

Describing its defeat as "a brutal let-down", the paper advises the party to undertake "honest self-criticism of its Iraq policy" while backing its new leader, Mariano Rajoy.

Jose Maria Aznar's support for the Iraq war was seen by some as a mistake

In an editorial it said: "The PP will do itself much harm if it fails to recognise that its support for Bush in his intervention against Saddam Hussein was a grave error."
Spain's new premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has been reluctant to admit his victory was solely down to the Madrid bombings.

But he did concede it was a catalyst to bring more people, including injured patients in hospitals, to the polling booths. His political pride can be understood.

Some commentators have said it was the first time an election result was dictated by a terrorist attack.

However, others recognised that something more significant had happened after the terrorist attacks.

*quote2*Almudena Grandes, the Spanish novelist, says: "On Sunday, the Spanish people voted bravely, they voted with rage and they voted according to their conscience.

"Spain has not humiliated herself before the attacks of terrorists, she has risen up against a government which humiliated her every day by using terrorism as an electoral weapon. Spain has shown that she is a decent country.

"The Socialist party has won the elections, but never was a victory so desired been at the same time as sad as this one."

Spain now has to face a future in which terrorism is a major part.

Quite apart with struggling with the aftermath of the Madrid bombings, it has to  confront the reality that Spain – like most other modern European countries – must live in a high-security environment.

Outgoing Interior Minister Angel Acebes announced Wednesday a substantial increase in security measures across Spain. 

Perhaps there will be a new wariness in a country known for its impulsiveness.

Quite apart from this, Spain's position in the world has changed. No longer

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