February 20, 2024

The air conditioning units that throughout Spain cool marijuana plantations in drug-stores or warehouses in rustic farms often end up knocked out with a hammer by police officers and the Civil Guard, abandoned in clandestine facilities as mute witnesses. But, in the province of Cádiz, these machines, increasingly essential to withstand the frequent heat waves, have ended up in public schools since 2019, whose classes reach sweltering temperatures at the beginning and end of the course.

Why isn’t this transfer that benefits students and public coffers extended and reduces the hefty spending on new devices supported by regional governments, town halls and associations of parents of schools? The reason is a mixture of lack of will from the security forces, excessive bureaucracy and poor coordination between administrations so that students stop sweating in the classroom thanks to police action against organized crime.

With the current marijuana boom, every week police operations are recorded with thousands of plants and dozens of air conditioning devices seized in the 52 provinces. However, Cádiz is the only one that sends them to educational centers thanks to the efforts of the Civil Guard Command, as confirmed by the Ministry of Justice. Its Asset Recovery and Management Office (ORGA), which manages assets seized from drug traffickers throughout the country, specifies that only Cádiz schools benefit from this temporary transfer of machines, pending a final ruling. In another eight provinces, the devices have been installed mainly in barracks and offices of the Civil Guard, but also in town halls on the Mediterranean coast.

“Children do not concentrate in the same way when suffocating and sweating, and the same thing happens with their coat on in winter. With climate change we no longer have spring and fall, only summer and winter. For technology workshops and training cycles we have very big airs”, applauds Juan Carlos López, director of the Juan Sebastián Elcano institute in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cádiz), with 850 students. The center already has its 24 air-conditioned classrooms after receiving four devices this course, one of them still being cleaned to remove the remains of marijuana from its filters.

Air conditioning units stacked in the judicial warehouse of Cádiz.  / ASSIGNED
Air conditioning units stacked in the judicial warehouse of Cádiz. / ASSIGNED

When agents dismantle a marijuana plantation in a police operation, the pots are equipped with fans, exhaust fans, humidifiers, light bulbs, ballasts that cover the bulbs… Everything to achieve the best temperature and freshness conditions to achieve three crops per year. And this climate can only be achieved with powerful air conditioning units, whose volume varies if they have to cool rooms in drugstores or camouflaged industrial buildings.

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“The Endesa technicians cut off the power, make a report of fraud due to the illegal electricity supply, and then we prepare the procedures for the association to request temporary confiscation from the judge, the latter agrees and the ORGA awards it. The transfer involves more work, but we have already internalized it as one more part because justice has to be agile. The bureaucracy prevents more devices from reaching the schools ”, warn Civil Guard sources in this Andalusian province. It is not always possible to uninstall the machines —of up to 4,000 frigories— due to their location and they are not always in optimal condition, but very often because the drug dealer’s profits have many zeros.

In Seville, the problem of drug floors is entrenched and every two weeks a clan that grows marijuana in the middle of the city falls. Six months ago, the transfer to schools of the air conditioning devices intervened in the marijuana table was discussed, a semi-annual meeting between the security forces and the administrations involved, given the seriousness of the matter. Now, the Government Sub-delegation in Seville has transferred the issue to the Provincial Commission of the Judicial Police to find “the best legal umbrella for the donation”, according to sources from said body. Meanwhile, the transfer is still stuck.

“It’s a very good idea, but we are facing technical difficulties, like disassembling and reinstalling it. Since 2021 we request to disable the machinery on site because it is heavy and has an electrical risk. I would love to donate them because it’s a shame to make them useless, but bureaucracy kills us and a national mechanism should be articulated to facilitate donation. This is how society would win ”, sums up a police command from Seville.

Juan Carlos López, director of the Juan Sebastián Elcano institute in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cádiz), in a classroom before the end of the school year, at the end of June 2023.
Juan Carlos López, director of the Juan Sebastián Elcano institute in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cádiz), in a classroom before the end of the school year, at the end of June 2023.Juan Carlos Toro

The possibility of transferring the seized air conditioners also arose in Almería, where, as in Granada, operations take place very frequently. “Here (the transfer) was raised, but due to discrepancies it was decided not to do it. Would the uninstaller company pay the Board? It was agreed that they would assess it… but it raised coordination and legal problems. The ORGA told us that there was no other way out and guarding him would be more expensive. Generally, they are destroyed”, admit sources from the Almeria Prosecutor’s Office.

In the Campo de Gibraltar, so many operations against drug trafficking have caused a tremendous traffic jam in the judicial warehouse. “The ideal is an agile concert, but before we seized the televisions and there is no room anymore. It is very sad because the effects are obtained thanks to crime and we should take everything with us: Rolexes, branded bags and air conditioners, everything”, lamented sources from the Cadiz Prosecutor’s Office. The most striking case occurs in Granada, where many air conditioning devices are abandoned on the farms without first destroying them, so that the drug trafficker can dispose of them after his arrest. “On many occasions they remain as is, we do not disable anything,” admits a spokesman for the Civil Guard.

Regarding the extension of the donation to the other seven provinces, sources from the Ministry of Educational Development and Vocational Training affirm: “If the proposal (from the security forces) arrives, it will be studied.” While the administrations investigate a common solution, the Cádiz Civil Guard gives up the air conditioning devices, but also refrigerated trucks and loads of food (couscous, tuna, etc.) to soup kitchens. “We give an outlet to all the altruistic uses of the intervened material. We do not give it away, we give it away at the request of the judicial authority, and otherwise the Administration would pay the judicial deposit for each cubic meter of material”, sources from this command clarify.

Fainting and bleeding of students due to extreme heat

The suffocating temperatures that reach the classrooms of Andalusian schools cause some students to faint and bleed through the nose. The problem is cyclical and so serious that it led to the Law for Bioclimatization of Educational Centers, approved unanimously three years ago after protests by parents, alarmed by the health of their children. Andalusia is the community most exposed to climate change, the experts repeat.

Regarding the transfer of the devices from the security forces, Teresa de Pablo, spokesperson for Escuelas de calor, the platform that with its social struggle generated the law, affirms: “It seems good to us that this solution improves the centers of Cádiz, but the Bioclimatization Law is the true guarantee that all Andalusian students and their teachers see their right to thermal comfort and health in the classrooms respected”. And she adds: “We cannot trust the air conditioning of the classrooms to the fact that crimes are committed and that the Civil Guard seizes equipment from these crimes, there is an obligation of the Board.”

marijuana plantation
An agent, during a seizure of marijuana in a drug store in Granada, in 2019. fermin rodriguez

Of the 4,500 public educational centers, the Andalusian Executive has installed air conditioning systems in 189, according to its own data. Now it has a plan underway to have adiabatic cooling —a system that evaporates the water contained in the air, with lower energy consumption— whose works will be completed before the end of the year in 258 schools and institutes. The majority of air conditioning devices are paid for by the centers themselves and the associations of mothers and fathers, but the Andalusian Government lacks data that offers the complete picture of the situation.

Thermal stress increases with climate change, but while Royal Decree 486/1997 on safety and health at work set indoor temperatures between 14 and 27 degrees, today the rule is ignored by most schools. Those harmed by this embarrassment are teachers and students, despite the fragility of their health due to the rise in mercury.

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