Llucmajor meet Campos. Campos meet Llucmajor. Neighbours for so long, but only now united by adequate transport communication. Eight kilometres of what is variously described as a dual carriageway, a highway, a motorway. Eight kilometres of new road and safer road, but eight kilometres of high controversy. Eight kilometres that the citizens of both municipalities have generally been in favour of, but not the anti-roads lobby, for whom it is the highway of shame, the highway to ecologist hell. Cue AC/DC.
This isn’t just the story of the loss of 54 hectares of rustic land and of supposedly non-environmentally friendly materials that were used in the eight-kilometre construction.
This is the story of protest without popular support, the story of political tensions, the story of a peculiar political alliance at an inauguration that wasn’t, and the story of a budget item which has attained a mythical status - the so-called roads agreement.
The anti-roads group, opposed to the road from the get-go, had its final day in the Mallorca sun on Monday. Not a large gathering, this did rather reflect the failure to amass a mass following against the road. This was not a road protest like those of the past. There were no rubber bullets being fired by the Guardia Civil at members of the Farmers Union, as happened in 1978 when there was the attempt to stop the building of the motorway to Inca.
Yet for all that Llucmajor-Campos didn’t succeed in becoming the eco-cause célèbre the opponents had wished - mainly because public opinion favoured a new road to replace one known to be an accident black spot - the protests were sufficient to cause political ructions. And as the Council of Majorca was responsible for the road, these ructions involved the tripartite pact of PSOE, Més and Podemos.
When Miquel Ensenyat of Més was the president of the Council, he found himself in the politically awkward position of having to defend the building of a road which the anti-roads lobby argued went against Més eco-credentials. That he didn’t become road-building Public Enemy No. 1 was due to the fact that infrastructure (e.g. roads) was a PSOE bailiwick. Between 2015 and 2019, this meant Mercedes Garrido, whose association with the controversial Llucmajor-Campos road was such, or so it seemed a couple of years ago, that she was deemed too high maintenance. Not for maintaining the roads, but for being the PSOE candidate for the presidency of the Council.
Mercedes had appeared to be in pole position, ready to burn rubber in speeding off to the presidency and to the completion of the eight kilometres. Was the road the reason why Catalina Cladera was preferred? We’ll never know, but Mercedes spent getting on for a couple of years in the shadows of parliament before being given a retread and cruising to the ministry for the presidency (Francina Armengol’s presidency).
It was Catalina who duly showed up at the inauguration which wasn’t really an inauguration. There was no grand cutting of a ribbon, no fraternal meeting of the Llucmajor and Campos bands of music to celebrate the occasion by playing road-related pop or rock tunes, such as AC/DC’s. There was just the small presence of the anti-roads group, and there was also the mayor of Campos, the PP’s Xisca Porquer, who got into a right old ding-dong argument with the protesters. Catalina didn’t know where to put herself, and there were no Més or Podemos Council representatives to hide behind. Even the Podemos councillor for infrastructure, Ivan Sevillano, had conveniently managed to double book. The two other parties of the Council’s pact were belatedly revealing their eco-credentials in absentia. Tensions there are.
Almost tangential to the protest against the road was the protesters’ raising of the money to pay for it. Why were they that concerned by who had stumped up the 28 million? Was this because they had wanted the 28 million to go on something else, such as some environmentally sustainable projects that tourist tax revenue couldn’t stretch to? Not exactly, no, as they wanted to know why the Council had paid for the road out of its own pocket and had spent nary a euro of state road investment cash. This was all to do with the roads agreement, which has attained mythical status as the cash for it never materialises each year when the Balearic budgets are being set.
The point about this funding, or so it is alleged, is that the Spanish government might have been handing over the cash if it hadn’t been for some 100 million euros that had been earmarked for road-building which went on other things during the financial crisis. Some 100 million euros, the PP have always claimed, which were when Francina Armengol was president of the Council of Majorca.