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Score settling signals new era

I’m not new to gunfire on my doorstep. I studied at USC’s campus between Downtown LA and Watts. That’s why this week’s news that a Romanian doorman had been gunned down in Madrid at a nightclub just around the corner from my office and across from the Royal Opera House was sadly familiar. It was also a dark reminder of how Spain has changed in little more than a decade.

With the notable exception of ETA terrorism, the few murders to make national news in the mid 90s were almost always assaults with a colorful assortment of razor-sharp or hard, blunt objects. Watching the reports on television almost seemed quaint to this jaded American.

Then came the flow of illegal arms out of the former Yugoslavia and the opening of borders with east European countries where soldiers in early retirement found work beyond their borders in illegal gangs organized enough for Spanish police to call them mafias. Throw in a sprinkling of Colombian assassins-for-hire hot on the trail of cocaine deals made and broken in Spain — Europe’s biggest gateway for the drug — and the picture crystallizes. A renowned Colombian coke dealer, temporarily released from his prison cell for medical treatment, was shot dead in his bed at one of Madrid’s largest hospitals less than a week before the nightclub murder.

Police believe the settling of a score between rival mafias is behind both murders. Together, these acts are a telling sign of the ways and weaponry now wielded by the crime circuits in Spain.