By David Kerr
The organizers of World Youth Day are praising the Spanish police after they arrested a Mexican chemistry student for allegedly plotting to gas anti-Pope protesters at this week’s Catholic youth festival in Madrid.
“We condemn any type of violence. This man was a volunteer for World Youth Day, but is no longer such,” said spokesman Rafa Rubio to CNA on August 17.
“The police have acted appropriately and in line with what they had to do. This man no longer works as part of World Youth Day.”
A police spokesman confirmed that they had indeed arrested an unnamed suspect yesterday and that he is a student specializing in organic chemistry. However, they stressed that no actual chemicals had been found during raids on his apartment.
The traditionally anti-Catholic Spanish newspaper El Pais claims that the arrest was to avoid the chance that any failed attack would panic people.
The newspaper also said that police were alerted by the vehemence of the man’s comments on internet forums regarding recent verbal attacks on Pope Benedict by various figures in Spanish civil society.
The news of the arrest emerged only hours before a demonstration in Madrid this evening against the alleged costs of the papal visit.
“We are not angry about the Pope’s visit, which some will agree with and others won’t, but rather over the financing of it with public money, especially at a time when many services are being cut because it’s necessary to curb government spending,” said campaign group 15-M said in a statement.
However, organizers of World Youth Day insist the event is at “zero cost to taxpayers” and will, in fact, bring money into the Spanish economy with over a million visitors expected in the nation’s capital this week.
Spain is currently gripped by an economic crisis that has resulted in it having the highest unemployment rate in the industrialized world.