Habitual, not normal

From time to time Marbella is shocked by a shooting. Or perhaps not. Gangland killings have started to form part of the routine and so talking about being shocked is an exaggeration. Strength of habit is such that we run the risk of treating as normal what is simply habitual.

We have been accepting the unacceptable for too long. Four murders in a month, plus two more the previous month, ought to be enough for local residents to feel invaded by a sense of insecurity. But that's not happening. The only thing we feel invaded by is the mafia-style gangs.

It seems as though this has nothing to do with the local population and that's how we should treat it. The same happened some time ago, until a stray bullet fired by a clumsy hitman ended the life of a child who was passing by.

That episode, back in 2004, brought an end to the absurdly mistaken criteria that had been adopted by the majority of citizens, and also the authorities, which made us think that mafia gangs and decent people live and move in parallel universes.

That moment of awareness was brief. Now we have gone back to a state of absurd unconsciousness, as though we didn't realise that anyone could just happen to be passing through the wrong place at the wrong time. It's perhaps too much to suppose that a hitman will always be a good shot.

The relationship between organised crime and Marbella and the rest of the Costa del Sol has gone through different phases. First, this was just a place to come to live discreetly and spend ill-gotten money. Later with the property bubble and municipal corruption, this became a money laundering paradise. The next step was to start doing business here and lately the Malaga coastline seems to have become an extension of the Campo de Gibraltar.

There are some nightspots in Marbella, including some of certain prestige, where the doorman greets clients with a metal detector. It's not sensible to believe that the prestige of this town can allow this to go on for much longer.

The police say that this is not an escalation, just a succession of isolated incidents. Four in a month, six in two months. It's the same argument they used last year, when the gangs made a qualitative leap and started to use explosives in this war that, the authorities insist, isn't a war.

These gangland killings are taking a worrying turn but the worry isn't just whether there's one more shooting here or there.

What's really worrying is that we are starting to consider it part of the routine.

And that the authorities are doing the same.