A smugglers’ paradise

Cambados and Vilagarcía de Arousa used to be traditional fishing villages. Today they are better known for contract killers, multi-millionaire drug barons and henchmen of drug cartels. The coastline of Spain’s poverty-stricken Galicia region is the main gateway of Colombian cocaine to Europe. Originally, in the 1960s and 1970s, the smugglers were fishermen trafficking with tobacco. Later, the cocaine business took over the existing networks. For young people the trafficking represented easy money and comfortable life. “Trafficking was the way the youth got integrated to the society”, said Fran Arias, 32, who started cocaine trafficking at the age of 15 and now tries to get clear of the spiral of drugs and crimes. We went to Galicia to see how the region struggles against becoming the “Sicily of Spain”. We also visited a rehabilitation centre and rang the doorbell of a villa that once belonged to one of the drug lords, Laureano Oubiña.
Published in Helsingin Sanomat in 2008.

photos by stefano buonamici