Picardo and Franco mark border closure anniversary in La Linea
The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and La Línea mayor Juan Franco hugged in a show of friendship yesterday as they met at the frontier to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the border closure.
The pair then walked across into La Línea to mark the occasion at the statue of the cross-frontier worker.
Saturday marked 50 years since General Franco ordered for the frontier to close, a decision which stayed in place for the next 13 years.
Standing alongside the Chief Minister, Mr Franco told the press: “We are here to commemorate what happened 50 years ago, and not to celebrate.”
“The negative consequences of that serious decision are still being felt in this city 50 years later.”
“All movement was stopped and this left many Gibraltarians and La Línea in dire conditions for many years after.”
The frontier opened once again in 1985, and Mr Franco said that thankfully La Línea has been able to “recuperate” some of its normality since then.
He put this down to the people who live on both sides of the frontier.
“There are still many unpleasant occasions created by people who do not live in the area, who do not understand what we have gone through and who do not understand that we are neighbouring towns that have a lot in common,” Mr Franco said.
He said that despite Brexit, Gibraltar and La Línea will continue on friendly terms.
Speaking on the day of his budget address, Mr Picardo told the Spanish and local media: “When the gates clanged close we had a deficit of £352,000.”
“The fascist government said they were going to strangle us when they closed the frontier and that we were going to fall like ripe fruit.”
“Fifty years later we have a record surplus of £85 million and we are the most prosperous we have ever been."
“Fifty years later we have more Spaniards, more La Línea residents, and more European citizens working in Gibraltar than 50 years ago.”
“You cannot force people to do something that they do not want to do and we are not pieces of fruits or vegetables that were going to ripen but people, human beings with hearts.”
“Fascism will never win and trying to force Gibraltarians to change their minds about their identities will never work either.”
“The only thing that will work is democracy, open communication, love amongst neighbours, and to know that whenever there is a political conflict, we as a people know how to maintain good relationships.”
At the weekend, a former La Línea businessman, Miguel Rodriguez, who owns the Festina watch brand, described Gibraltar as a “cancer” for Spain.
Mr Picardo responded to this comment yesterday and said: “Anyone who describes my country and my fellow countrymen, who are people regardless of the passport that we have, as one of the worst illnesses ever, as a cancer, is not worthy of a response.”
“This man sells watches. I think he still thinks it’s 1969.”
Mr Picardo thanked the La Línea benefactors who ensured the same gates that were once shut 50 years ago are now on display in Gibraltar in the John Mackintosh Hall.
Mr Picardo and Mr Franco also received plaques from the organisers of the La Línea based exhibition “50 years: Many stories to tell”.
Many members from the Cross Frontier Group stood by as Mr Franco and Mr Picardo spoke to the press.
In a statement, the group said: “In commemoration of this tragic event, the Cross Frontier Group wishes to pay homage to all those people on both sides of the border who suffered as a consequence of this brutal measure.”
“We would like us all to remember those who suffered this siege, those who lost their jobs, the separated families, those who had to emigrate, and companies that lost a significant part of their business.”
The Cross Frontier Group said that since it first started five years ago it has worked towards cooperation and dialogue “as the only possible means for greater understanding between peoples”.
“We represent an example of how the defence of the common rights of citizens on both sides of the border can be taken forward by putting differences aside,” the group added.
“In short the Cross Frontier Group is a concrete example of unity and a guarantee that one of the most atrocious attacks against human rights is never repeated again.”