A pullout of Polaris submarines at the U.S. naval base of Rota has had a serious impact on that area of southern Spain.
The loss of jobs for Spanish civilians has provoked angry demonstrations and a two-week sit-in by the newly unemployed in the Town Council building.
Pullout of the submarines came as a result of earlier Spanish insistence that U.S. nuclear weapons be removed from the bases in this country.
The withdrawal to a Georgia base was completed by July 1 in accordance with the terms of the 1976 Spanish-U.S. treaty governing the American military presence here. Along with the subs went 114 jobs for Spanish civilians and 69 for U.S. non-naval personne.
"When the submarines went, business slowed down, although everything humanly possible has been done to keep the job reductions to a minimum," a U.S. Embassy official said.
The Socialist mayor of Rota, Fernando Tejedor Martin, however, said, "The dismissals were arbitrary, unjust and the submarine issue is just a convenient excuse. The Americans are scaling down Spanish employees and the Spanish government, which knew this was coming, has let it happen."
Spain's Socialists were among the leaders of the effort, prior to signing of the 1976 treaty, to rid Spain of the Polaris subs.
The mayor and the council led demonstrations against the cutbacks in the town's main square and threw open the doors of the Town Council building to some 50 former employes of the base who have staged the sit-in to highlight their plight.
With unemployment in the Rota area, as in most parts of southern Spain, running at 12 percent -- four points higher than the national average -- the lost jobs on the base have caused feelings to run high.
The cause of the Rota protesters has been taken up by the two major trade unions, the Socialist Workers' General Union and the Communist led Workers' Commissions. Socialist and Communist congressmen from southern Spain have visited the sit-in to offer encouragement and support.
At the center of the protest is the fear that more jobs could be in peril. The Rota naval base, the largest employer among U.S. bases in Spain, although its strategic importance has diminished since the Polaris pullout, provides jobs for 1,636 Spanish civilians. The town of Rota, population 26,000 is "totally dependent on the base," Mayor Tejedor Martin. "Everything revolves around it."
The continuing protest in Rota threatens to sour a U.S. initiative aimed at improving base relations with adjoining communities.
Last month, Ambassador Terence Todman held meetings with the mayors of Saragossa, Moron and Torrejon, three centers close to U.S. air base, as well as with the mayor of Rota. Joint committees are being created to sponsor cultural projects.
Protesters in Rota criticize the Spanish government for failing to foresee the social consequences of the Polaris withdrawal. But most of the blame is put on the United States.
"We received the Americans with open arms," said Mayor Tejedor Martin. "Instead of beaches and tourists, we have a base and Marines. The Americans cannot now leave us without jobs."
The Rota base, along with the three air bases, will be reviewed in 1981 when the Treaty of Cooperation and Friendship comes up for renewal.