Man walks with cross on back to Gibraltar to end dispute

1st September 2013, Comments 0 comments

A Spanish man arrived in Gibraltar Sunday after walking with a huge wooden cross on his back for four days to ask for God's help in ending a dispute between Madrid and London over the British outpost.

Justo Marquez crossed an airplane runway that serves as the border between Gibraltar and Spain with the cross -- which weighs ten kilos (22 pounds) and stands three metres high by two metres wide with a set of wheels at its base -- slung over his shoulder.

The unemployed 50-year-old, who wore a white sheet as a tunic and a sign that read "No more hunger, no more war, peace on Earth" plans to pray and fast in Gibraltar for 24 hours before returning to Spain.

"I had no problem getting in, I didn't expect it. My goal is to be here for 24 hours to ask God to intervene in this conflict and resolve it instead of politicians," he said.

Spain disputes Britain's three centuries of sovereignty over Gibraltar, a territory on the southern tip of Spain which measures just 6.8 square kilometres (2.6 square miles) and is home to about 30,000 people.

The latest tensions between Madrid and London over the outpost began in July after Gibraltar boats dumped blocks of concrete into the sea near the territory. Gibraltar said it was creating an artificial reef that would foster fish populations.

Spain said the reef would block its fishing boats and introduced stringent border checks which it said are needed to stop smuggling, creating waits of several hours for motorists trying to enter the tiny territory.

The European Commission has said it will send observers to the border at the invitation of both Madrid and London.

Marquez began his trek to Gibraltar from the Spanish port city of Malaga located about 140 kilometres (85 miles) away on Thursday with just a baguette and a bottle of water in his rucksack.

He has stayed with supporters along the way who have heard about his initiative in the media.

Marquez, a father of three whose wife works in a fruit warehouse, said he plans to return to his hometown of Nerja by bus.

"If I can't take the cross on the bus I will just leave it here," he said.

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity in 1713 but has long argued that it should be returned to Spanish sovereignty. London says it will not do so against the wishes of Gibraltarians, who are staunchly pro-British.

© 2013 AFP

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