The tiny town of Bronchales, in Teruel province, is in the news for two reasons right now. One is that the fifth-largest prize in Spain’s renowned El Gordo Christmas lottery went to a number sold in the local supermarket.
The other is that Daniel Pérez Berlanga, the man who rammed his car into the Madrid headquarters of Spain’s ruling party on Friday, is one of the 460 residents of the mountain village.
“It was my intention to attack politicians, because they’re all the same,” said the 37-year-old after his arrest. “I could have attacked any other party besides the Popular Party [PP].”
Shortly before 7am on Friday, Pérez Berlanga crashed his Citroën Xantia through the doors of PP headquarters on Génova street, near Colón square. Two gas canisters and two sacks of industrial fertilizer were inside the vehicle, but the material failed to explode.
It was my intention to attack politicians, because they’re all the same” Daniel Pérez Berlanga
The car nearly ran over a member of the cleaning staff as it careered through the front doors and reached the staircase.
Pérez Berlanga was initially described as a “ruined businessman” who blamed the PP for his financial woes, but it has since emerged that he had been an employee at Utisa, a wood company, that laid him off in May as part of a labor adjustment plan.
That same month he sat official examinations to obtain a position in local government as a watchman for a new mushroom-gathering preserve that Bronchales is planning to open next fall.
Pérez Berlanga came in fifth and did not get the job. Since then he has been living on unemployment checks and staying with his parents. He has one theft on his police record and is being treated for schizophrenia and drug abuse.
Pérez Berlanga blamed the political class for his situation and wanted to take revenge, police investigators said.
His father Juan Pedro Pérez was the Socialist mayor of Bronchales between 2003 and 2007, and now owns a paint company. His mother Teresa works in the hospitality sector. He has a sister living in Zaragoza and no partner or children of his own.
His neighbors described him as a sociable man with strong ties to the village. “We never could have imagined anything like this, we are all in shock,” said the current mayor, Francisco Nacher, who lives one street down from the attacker.
Following his arrest, Pérez Berlanga told the police that he did not activate the homemade bomb because he got stuck inside the car and feared for his own life. That is the reason why he asked to be frisked at some distance from the building, which he believed could have blown up at any moment.
While the case was originally sent to Spain’s High Court, which deals with terrorist crimes, a judge sent it back to the ordinary courts after failing to find evidence of terrorism, as the suspect did not belong to any terror organization and said he was going against the political class in general.
A Madrid judge ordered him sent to preventive prison on Saturday on preliminary charges of damage against property, possession of explosives and attempted homicide.