Thursday, November 26

From zulo de ETA-Asturcón to refuge

Some spaces achieve a second life, mysteriously up to the hidden Naranco zulo that served as headquarters for the self-styled criminal organization ETA-Asturcón, which for forty-three years (between 1974 and 2017) committed kidnappings and two attempted homicides and extortion with impunity to entrepreneurs, scams by subscribing to policies and jewelery theft, not only in Oviedo but in other parts of Asturias, Cantabria and Madrid. Two years after the National Police declared the ‘Ermita operation’ dismantled, with the prescribed crimes, the area has gone from being an illegal landfill to a refuge, according to a sign painted in red letters on a tree to indicate access, with the same spelling as that used in other areas of the mountain, such as old bunkers from the civil war that have also achieved that second chance.

To this day, the ‘people’s prison’, as the researchers baptized it, later dismantled, has been transformed into a space for lost people, with improved structures and modestly conditioned inside. This has been verified by ‘El Comercio’, after a visit to this refuge, which is accessed by a path a few meters from the antennas of Radio Televisión Española, in a farm called ‘Ciervo’. A plot that during those years of criminal activity went unnoticed under dissuasive hives and whose ownership is unknown. It remains unclear if it is municipal, regional or private because “it does not appear in the municipal heritage system.”

It is surprising how the author has conditioned the interior, with chairs, a clock painted on a wood, food cans, clothes for change, and has even hung on the wall a framed clipping of a newspaper, dated April 29, 2017, reporting of what ‘The cache found in the Naranco contained weapons that would be linked to criminal groups’.

The appearance of the space was discovered precisely on those dates, at the beginning of April three years ago, when a neighbor fortuitously came across the zulo and contacted the National Police. He then uncovered a construction linked to a case without parallels in Asturias, allowing the identification of “one of the most active criminal groups in time” in the region.

Kidnapping and extortion

More than a year of research allowed to connect the dots: the leader presented himself as an Asturian linked to the electronics sector, well connected and even delighted to live in “luxury apartments” whose rent he left unpaid. He died in 2012, with no prior record. A woman, “an active member of the group”, was released without charges for prescribing the crimes, although she is attributed with participation in the attempted kidnapping of businessman Alfredo Galán. He called him for an appointment at the so-called “cowboy break,” today the Buenos Aires grill. A third man has been identified. All three were relatives. Actually, they were not a “group of terrorism, but of common crime”, the Police defined them. They called themselves ETA-Asturcón because they “dressed a lot” and “intimidated the victims a little more” that they were linked to the then very active ETA – it had stolen 130 million pesetas from Banco Herrero in Oviedo in 1978-.

These Asturians starred in other high-profile cases: the attempted kidnapping and murder of the head of Pediatric Surgery at HUCA Juan Teixidor, the sending of numerous letters to renowned professionals demanding the payment of an economic amount (collected between 1.5 and 3 million pesetas per year in ten years) and in 1995, the kidnapping of the son of a businessman from Colloto. The latter, according to the investigations, did not, however, spend his two days of retention in this den before being released in Luanco. Others maybe yes, although it has not been clarified. Now it has gone from zulo to refuge.

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