Sometimes, looking at things from a sideways angle is helpful...

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Ciñera - the perfect trench

Translated from:

The residents in this town in Leon, scene of some of the most tense days of the mining conflict, live with "anxiety" and "fear" every day.

The town of Ciñera in Leon has in recent weeks become the stage of a real battle that never ends. Its streets have been home to some of the toughest days of this conflict, and this is reflected in the "tension" that permeates the atmosphere, and "anxiety and fear" that the once secure residents now feel. The blockages of the N-630, which connects Leon and Asturias, and of the railway lines running parallel to this road have become a common sight in this small town, which has become a common battleground for the skirmishes and attempted fights between the miners and the Civil Guard. The miners feel at home here, and have the ability to "hold" trains and their drivers with little effort. In addition, the lie of the land, situated between mountains and hillsides makes an escape possible.

The history of Ciñera is linked to that of its mines, employing most of its population, therefore the residents have absolute support for the coal industry. However, recent cuts have sparked violent clashes between miners and the Guardia Civil, cuts that have sparked protests by miners who want to "get everything back to normal" and regret this "disgrace".

Until this happens and the coal industry is able to continue, people in Ciñera live with the constant remains of the battles. The cleanliness of the streets contrasts with the black marks left by burning tires and piles of stones arranged to be thrown while broken glass can be seen in the windows of some of the houses.

Despite being "fatigued" by this "constant struggle" the neighbours are standing strong with the mining community, and express "complete" support, offered "until the end" in their "defense of the mining industry". These messages of encouragement can be seen on the shirts of the citizens, not only worn for protests but also in their daily lives, and in the banners hanging from almost every balcony and window of the town.

The 'tension' is evident in the minutes before a new road or rail blockage. The residents crowd along the road and onto their balconies to watch how a group of workers use a truck to block the N-630. Others drag stones, traffic cones and branches to help block train tracks. Soon the Guardia Civil come, and everyone knows from experience that the end of this particular protest will depend on the actions of the security forces and the response from the miners, it could either be peaceful or end up in battle.

A resident complained about the constant state of "insecurity" that he feels in the village. "I am very nervous and have had several sleepless nights because I feel sad and pained by what is happening here," he says. Another says that "without mining Leon will sink," and defends the outages as leverage to ensure that "something is done." However,they request that the fight take place away from the residents and "without further enslaving the people", who are "paying the consequences" for each battle.

It is also common for Castanon Francisco, Mayor of La Pola de Gordon (PP), municipality of Ciñera, to go with the residents. Without knowing what it would take to end the protest, he understands the nervousness that residents feel, and recalls that they are just "ordinary people" who "suffer and suffer" whenever the conflict takes over the streets.

Despite this, said the Mayor, remember that we all support our people, the miners, and understand that the blockages of the roads and railways are a form of making ourselves heard, and will show the industry minister, José Manuel Soria, who will have to "see reason" and bet on coal. Similarly, Castanon asked security forces to distinguish "between those who stirred up violence and the rest of the population" and to endeavour to ensure that "living with violence" doesn't become every day for the residents of this village.

One of the last signs of weariness from the inhabitants of this town is reflected in the collection of signatures for a petition that is taking place to request the resignation of the deputy Minister in León, Juan Carlos Suarez Quiñones over disproportionate policing. Indeed, Suarez-Quinones supported the actions of the GRS and asked workers to stop using "violence" as a form of making their demands and to stop using Ciñera as a cover for their demonstrations.

The miners say they intend to continue the fight to achieve their ultimate goal. The next days will be "key" and they feel the response of the Government and its "flexibility" will depend on the fight in the streets of Ciñera and whether the violence will become just a memory or open a new chapter in this struggle, one that will bring further violence.

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