Third PP official steps down over Madrid Arena tragedy

Technocrat Antonio de Guindos resigns as environment chief three months after Halloween disaster

Antonio de Guindos, an affable and efficient technocrat who hates politics, is the latest public official to lose his job over the Halloween party in Madrid that ended in a stampede and left five people dead.

Hours before stepping down as Madrid's environment and mobility delegate, De Guindos had been indicted for his alleged responsibility in the tragedy at Madrid Arena, a city-owned pavilion.

A massive party organized there by a private entrepreneur turned to tragedy when a firecracker set off a stampede trapping thousands of revelers inside a narrow passageway. Five young women were trampled to death in the ensuing chaos.

It has since been determined that the party was oversold and that security measures were inadequate for an event of its size.

On December 3, De Guindos said he would resign only if he were indicted or if Mayor Ana Botella asked him to.

Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), in fact tried to get him to postpone his decision until his lawyer had lodged an appeal. The Madrid Arena case has already cost the mayor a third of the team she put together when she succeeded Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón in December 2011.

The two other officials who stepped down have not been formally indicted, although they were widely blamed for playing a role in the tragedy. But Botella did not fight to keep them the way she has fought for De Guindos, who is a personal friend of hers and brother to Economy Minister Luis de Guindos.

The press conference to announce his resignation was conducted in a precipitated manner, and neither De Guindos nor Botella showed up to provide any kind of explanation.

Insufficient measures

The city knew as early as October 6 that there was going to be a Halloween party at Madrid Arena with at least 7,000 people in attendance. However, it did not alert the Samur emergency services until a few hours before the event, which was insufficient time to deploy the necessary number of ambulances and health personnel.

The Madrid chief of emergency situations, Alfonso del Álamo -- himself now facing charges over the tragedy -- admitted as much to an investigative committee.

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