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Gibraltar police boats harass Spanish fishermen

Algeciras mayor claims Rock is out to create tension ahead of Utrecht anniversary

A Gibraltar patrol boat approaches the Divina Providencia. Ampliar foto
A Gibraltar patrol boat approaches the Divina Providencia. EL PAÍS

Gibraltar patrol boats harassed two Spanish fishing boats out in Algeciras Bay on Tuesday morning, in a type of incident that had not occurred in the area since October 10, 2012.

At around 9am, four Gibraltarian police boats performed dangerous maneuvers around the Divina Provincia and the Anita Hernández vessels.

"The arrival of [Spanish] Civil Guard patrol boats prevented our boat from capsizing due to the great speed at which the Gibraltar police were going by," explained Francisco Gómez, captain of one of the vessels.

Leoncio Fernández, head of La Línea fishing association, said he could not understand why this kind of situation was happening again after three months of calm.

He also asked the government of Gibraltar "not to use Spanish fishermen for political purposes."

This new confrontation in the bay led Algeciras mayor José Ignacio Landaluce of the Popular Party to state that "this move by the government of Gibraltar is part of a campaign to raise tension to coincide with the 300th anniversary next Saturday of the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht" — a reference to the document by which Spain handed the rocky outpost over to Great Britain during the War of Spanish Succession.

"This episode takes place a few days after the government of Fabian Picardo reported alleged Spanish aggressions against Gibraltar, which have been proven false, and the Gibraltarian government wanted to use to fan the flames of tension between Spain and Great Britain," added Landaluce.

Days earlier, Gibraltar had complained that a Civil Guard patrol boat had harassed a water craft around the Rock and also that its air space had been invaded by four Spanish Air Force aircraft. Both claims were denied by the Spanish government.

In late March 2012, Gibraltar unilaterally decided to break its 1999 agreement with the fishing sector and began preventing Spanish fishermen from casting their nets in what it claims to be its waters.

By virtue of the Utrecht Treaty of 1713, Spain only recognizes the entrance to the port area as belonging to the Rock. Skirmishes in the area have been occurring intermittently since then.