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Madrid Hoteliers Upset by Warning

April 1, 2002

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MADRID, Spain (AP) _ Hoteliers in the Spanish capital are accusing the U.S. State Department of exaggerating the extent of muggings and violent crime in the city and calling on it to withdraw a consular warning to American tourists.

Jesus Gatell Pamies, president of the Madrid Hotel Association, conceded in comments published Monday by the newspaper El Pais that increasing crime was ``a very sad reality of some Spanish cities.″

But he added that the warning published in February on the State Department’s Web site was ``excessive″ and asked the United States to withdraw the report

Gatell Pamies said the higher crime rates don’t pose a particular risk for American tourists, who account for about 20 percent of visitors to the capital, Madrid.

According to the State Department, ``Madrid and Barcelona, in particular, have reported growing incidents of muggings and violent attacks.″

It added that the crimes occur at all times of day and night in key tourist areas: near the Prado Museum and Atocha train station, and areas of old Madrid like the Puerta del Sol plaza, El Rastro flea market and the old royal courtyard Plaza Mayor.

According to the Madrid prosecutor’s office, the overall crime rate rose 10.9 percent from 2000 to 2001, mainly because of increases in homicides, armed robberies, car theft and petty offenses.


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