“This is carte blanche for the mismanagement of another disaster”

Locals react with resignation to court ruling on Prestige oil spill

Some of the victims of the Prestige oil spill in Muxía.
Some of the victims of the Prestige oil spill in Muxía.ULY MARTÍN

“Reparatory justice has not been done,” said the lawyer for Nunca Máis, the social platform that emerged from the black tide of oil that was disgorged by the Prestige in November 2002. Pedro Trepat did not attempt to hide his disappointment after an A Coruña judge absolved the captain of the stricken vessel, the chief engineer, and the head of the Merchant Marine at the time of the disaster, as well as the Popular Party administration of former Prime Minister José María Aznar. Perat stated the ruling is “unsatisfactory and incoherent” due to the justification of the actions of José Luis López Sors, the head of the Merchant Marine, which the court said was based on “a more than sufficient technical appraisal.” Perat argued that this was not demonstrated during the trial.

“This ruling is carte blanche for [the government] to mismanage another crisis,” said Perat, noting that during the nine months of the trial “nobody has been able to say what should be done today” if a similar disaster occurred.

José María Ruiz Soroa, the defense lawyer for the Prestige’s captain Apostolos Mangouras, said he was “very happy” with the decision to hand his client a nine-month prison sentence, which under Spanish law precludes a custodial order.

It was to be expected, in a society where the elites are protected and society is not”

López Sors’ lawyer, Consuelo Castro, could not hide a smile after the ruling. “It has been proven that my client acted in a rational way,” she said.

In Muxía, one of the areas worst affected by the 63,000-ton crude oil spill, the ruling of the A Coruña court was met with a shrug of indifference. “It was just for show. There are guilty people but it’s the same as asking me, a sailor, to judge a farm worker,” said the head of the local skipper’s guild, Daniel Castro.

“It was to be expected, in a society where the elites are protected and society is not,” added Natxo Castro, leader of the fisherman’s guild. “The feeling is that Spanish society has been condemned. It is us who are paying for it, and who suffered the effects and the contamination.

Eleven years ago Muxía’s population was swelled by the thousands of volunteers who flocked from across the country to help with the environmental clean-up. Today, battered instead by the wind, the past is the past for most locals. Closing the door of his van with his shellfish catch inside, Bernabé simply comments: “I go out at 2am and I get back now, at 11.30am. I’m going to bed.”

“People aren’t really bothered because we already knew how it would end. After so many years, time has resolved it. They were never going to put the poor captain in jail; he was just doing what he was told,” said fisherman Joaquín Vilela.

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