Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Diplomatic Fallout from Boston

Photo: flickr/hahatango
The Boston Marathon is a joyous local event, signaling to a winter weary city that Spring, if not actually here, is not far away.  It is held on the 3rd Monday of April on Patriots' Day, an equally local holiday that is only celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine (which was once part of Massachusetts). But the Marathon is also the most international of events.  As the most prestigious road race in the world and the hardest marathon to qualify for, it is the dream of runners all over the world to come to run Boston.

And they do.  This year, athletes from 96 countries participated. And that meant that when the tragic bombings took place, those visitors, many of whom were unfamiliar with the city or even the country needed somewhere to turn, to find their friends, compatriots, or family members in the chaos or to find a place to stay when their hotels were cordoned off as crime scenes.  

As it happens, Boston is home to many Consuls General so that the citizens of countries with diplomatic representation can turn to those offices and get assistance and information. Not apparently the 91 Spanish runners who had registered for the race or those traveling with them.  The Spanish Consulate in Boston closed two hours after the bombing because 'that's the closing time.' No information, no hotlines to call, nothing was on offer.

One would think of all countries, the Spanish would be particularly attuned to the needs of a stunned and disoriented population following a deadly terrorist attack in a crowded city.  The twittersphere reacted with outrage.  Not just the visitors from Spain but many of the nearly 4,000 Spaniards living in Boston erupted in anger. One tweet coined a new saying for sloth: 'you work less than a Consul in Boston.' The resentment rebounded back to Spain, where in a country with epic levels of unemployment, there is little sympathy for highly paid public functionaries who exert little effort.

In the end, it was too much and Spain's Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, made the decision to fire Boston's Consul General, Pablo Sanchez-Teran. Another victim, though hardly blameless, of the Boston bombings.