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Madrid premier makes federal case out of act of hooliganism

Esperanza Aguirre in row with Interior Ministry over attack on her official residence

A routine case of apparent hooliganism and public intoxication drew new battle lines between Esperanza Aguirre and the Interior Ministry Wednesday after the Madrid regional premier publicly accused the central government of not doing its job to protect her and the rest of the Spanish capital's residents.

The latest episode between the Popular Party (PP) regional official and the Socialist government ignited after Aguirre held a news conference to explain that two men tried to kick in the gate to her official residence at about 4am Wednesday. After the Civil Guard chased the suspects and identified them, Aguirre complained that officers "let them go without even interrogating them."

"If this happens to me, and I am the regional premier of Madrid, imagine how defenseless the rest of Madrid's residents are," she said. "If this had happened at the home of [Socialist candidate Alfredo] Pérez Rubalcaba, would the police have acted in the same way?"

Correct procedures

The Civil Guard and police tell a different story. They said that the two men, aged 24 and 26 and wearing Real Madrid scarfs, were reportedly intoxicated when they kicked in the gate and briefly made their way to the main courtyard. After they were chased down, they were taken to police headquarters where they were charged with a misdemeanor for damaging public property. Sources at the Interior Ministry say the police followed the correct procedures for charging suspects with misdemeanors by releasing them without interrogation.

Following Aguirre's public statements, Interior Minister Antonio Camacho called her to explain the procedure and asked her not to make a political case out of the incident.

But who called who first is also in dispute. According to Madrid government officials, Aguirre tried calling Camacho early in the morning but he never answered the phone nor returned her calls. It was only after she held the news conference that Camacho picked up the phone.

But sources at the Interior Ministry say that Camacho and Aguirre spoke in the early morning and he asked her not to make any public statements until he could provide her with all the information.

The episode became a trending topic on micro-blogging site Twitter, with many users posting jokes with the hashtag "atentadoaguirre" (attack on Aguirre).