An investigation into recent death threats against Spanish government and law-enforcement officials shows that the letters containing bullets reached their destinations due to a human error at the national postal service, Correos.
According to an internal probe at Correos unveiled by the Cadena SER radio network and to which EL PAÍS has had access, the security employee in charge of scanning incoming mail at a Madrid processing center failed to flag up three envelopes containing ammunition that arrived there on April 19.
The letters were addressed to Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska of the Socialist Party (PSOE), to former deputy prime minister and Unidas Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias, and to María Gámez, head of the Civil Guard police force.
Iglesias, who recently quit his government position to run in the Madrid regional election scheduled for May 4, posted a picture on Twitter showing the contents of the letter he received. “Your wife, your parents and you are sentenced to capital punishment, your time is running out,” read the message to him.
Sources familiar with the investigation said that Correos security personnel failed to recognize the rifle rounds contained inside the three envelopes, which were all mailed on April 19 and arrived at the Vallecas processing center in Madrid at 5.48pm that same day. Correos has told the company in charge of security to remove the worker from his post “immediately” due to his inability to identify the bullets. The letters, like all other mail weighing over 100 grams, went through an X-ray scanner.
The system detected three consecutive letters containing respectively four rounds (addressed to Iglesias), two (sent to Grande-Marlaska) and one (meant for Gámez). Yet all three were processed and sent on to their destinations at the Interior Ministry and Civil Guard headquarters – where security teams did their own checks and detected the letters before they reached their intended recipients.
The National Police and the Civil Guard have launched their own investigations into the matter. Forensic police are analyzing the envelopes and letters for biological traces and examining the 7.62mm caliber rounds, which were phased out years ago by Spain’s armed forces and law-enforcement agencies.
Sources familiar with the investigation said all three letters were deposited in the same mailbox, confirming the suspicion that they were sent by the same individual. All three messages were also written using the same system, a printing letter mold kit, and used similar language, including the word taponazo, a technical term for a gunshot that the average Spanish speaker is not familiar with.
Officials in charge of the investigation said they are taking the threats seriously, in contrast with recent statements by leaders of the far-right party Vox, who suggested the letters could be phony. “I believe little of what Pablo Iglesias says, and I think that all Spaniards, every time that we hear Pablo Iglesias say something, we call it into question because he has deceived us vilely over this last year,” said Rocío Monasterio, the Vox candidate in the Madrid election, at a debate held on Friday that was cut short when Iglesias walked out following these statements.
English version by Susana Urra.