Attempt to burn a homeless man alive in Barcelona's Raval district

Three young men, who looked like neo-Nazis, poured petrol over the victim while he was sleeping

3 min
The Santo Pau security worker showing the gasoline stain to the ground

BarcelonaHis name is Fouzi, but in the neighbourhood he is affectionately known as Cucu, and he is convinced that today, Aurelio Vázquez, a security guard at the Gimnàs Social Sant Pau in the Raval, saved his life. He was sleeping in his sleeping bag, in the street, in a protected space that he sometimes uses if it rains or is windy, when a group of three young men, who looked like neo-Nazis, surrounded him and poured petrol over him with gasoline. It was eight o'clock in the morning and the attack did not go any further because Aurelio prevented it. Dressed in a black uniform and with handcuffs in his pocket, he caught the attention of the three attackers when he saw them throw a liquid on the homeless man, whom he knows because he is a user of the gym: two of them ran off along Ronda Sant Pau towards Sant Antoni market and the third one confronted the security worker with insults and, finally, also ran away. The security guard checked that the liquid was gasoline.

Cucu was still asleep when he heard Aurelio's shouts and understood what had happened when he took some water to clean it up. "Thank goodness for him, I didn't see anything and I wouldn't have been able to run in my sleeping bag. Just as well he was there", he repeated this morning, while speculating on what could have come after the gasoline. Agents of the Mossos and those responsible for the Gimnàs Social Sant Pau have convinced him of the need to report the facts "so that this can not happen to anyone else". The City Council believes it is clear that the aggression should be investigated as an "attempted murder".

"The clothes I was wearing would have burned very quickly," he lamented, still sitting very close to where it all happened, just over a meter from the door of the gym. He is 56 years old, Algerian and has been living on the street for four months after the hotels where he worked closed. "God will judge them," he repeated this morning, with fear in his body.

"I'm not a hero, I just did my job," Aurelio explained, pointing to the gasoline stain on the floor and regretting not having been able to catch the three attackers. Now the police have already begun to look for witnesses and asking for the recordings of the security cameras of nearby establishments to try to identify them. When the Guardia Urbana officers arrived shortly after 8 a.m., there was no trace of the three young men.

"Attempted murder"

Barcelona City Council is in no doubt that what happened today in the Raval neighbourhood is an "attempted murder". Councillor for Citizenship Rights, Marc Serra, said as much when he visited the gym accompanied by the councillor for Ciutat Vella, Jordi Rabassa, and the commissioner of Social Action, Sonia Fuertes. The priority of today's municipal action was to ensure that the attacked man had a space to be "calm" for the next few days, and also collect information to report the aggression to the Prosecutor's Office for Hate Crimes.

"Today's attack cannot go unpunished," insisted Serra, who described the action as an attack "on our model of coexistence," as a "cowardly aggression" with the aggravating factor of targeting a vulnerable person. "This is what happens when you give space to the ideas of the extreme right," said Santi Gonzalez, a worker at the gym, convinced that campaign speeches like those of Vox have incited "hatred". Very close to the gym, on Carrer Borrell, is Barcelona's LGTBI center, which, as Gonzalez recalls, a few days ago was also attacked with homophobic graffiti: "They are the consequences of speeches that incite hatred".