By Humphrey Carter THE Balearics is currently protected by a ring of steel as part of the annual summer security operation. “Operacion Verano” started on July 1 and, in the case of the Balearics, Galicia and Valencia, has been extended this year to run until the end of September.

The primary concern of the massive security operation is to ensure the maximum safety for the millions of domestic and foreign tourists in the holiday destinations. However this year, because of the threat of Islamic terrorism, according to Guardia Civil colonel in charge of the operation Salvador Romero García, more members of the Guardia Civil will be on duty than ever in a handful of key destinations.

The Balearics has been singled out because Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will be spending his summer holiday in Minorca with his family while former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar will be in Ibiza.

Majorca, as usual, will be the summer destination for the Spanish royal family and VIP guests, as well as a host of top Spanish and international celebrities.

In total, some 10.000 members of the Guardia Civil are being deployed in key areas across Spain as part of the summer operation with security being especially tightened at all sea ports and airports.

The main reason for the operation being extended until the end of September in the Balearics is because the holiday season does not end as early as in the rest of the country. There will still be hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers coming to the island right up until the end of September.

Valencia is of special concern because the first America's Cup 2007 sailing regattas start in September.
The extra Guardia Civil officers will also be helping to prevent and combat forest fires, provide extra manpower in the fight against drug trafficking and use in public. A maritime unit will be keeping a close eye on recreational nautical traffic and, in particular this year, jet skiers. The specialist diving and bomb disposal units have also been reinforced.

Colonel Salvador Romero said yesterday that the primary aim of the operation is to prevent crime and to provide swift and effective help to victims. “The public can have full confidence in the Guardia Civil and everyone can go on holiday peacefully this summer,” he said during yesterday's summer security briefing. Over the past week in Majorca, many would have spotted the new highway police helicopter in the air. The “eye in the sky” will be keeping a watch on traffic congestion and accidents this summer while maintaining constant contact with traffic units and the emergency services.