• Spain's news in English

Anti-eviction protestors bring fight home

AFP/The Local · 4 Apr 2013, 08:33

Published: 04 Apr 2013 08:33 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

A man in a white wedding dress flanked by two others in striped prison uniforms is outside the office of a Spanish lawmaker, pushing for changes to the country's tough eviction laws.

The unusual-looking protest is the latest in a wave of such demonstrations — dubbed "escraches", the Argentine slang word for denunciation — staged outside the homes or workplaces of lawmakers from Spain's ruling Popular Party in recent weeks by campaigners who blame the eviction laws for forcing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes during a deep recession.

"Why am I dressed as a bride? To show that we have come here full of love and not violence," said Daniel Garcia, an activist from the Platform for Mortgage Victims, which organized the protest Wednesday outside the office of lawmaker Eva Duran in Vallecas, a working-class neighbourhood in Madrid.

The grass-roots association wants the government to change Spain's laws to end evictions, allow insolvent homeowners to write off their debts by surrendering their homes and transform repossessed flats owned by banks into social housing.

Under the current law, a bank can pursue a mortgage holder to pay off the remaining balance of a loan if the value of the seized property is not enough.

Parliament agreed in February to debate the reforms proposed by the group after it collected over 1.4 million signatures in an online petition, but last week the Popular Party tabled amendments that would water down some of the key demands.

Spanish courts have executed 252,826 eviction orders -- including a record 75,605 last year -- since 2008, when a decade-long property bubble burst and Spain sank into recession, throwing millions out of work.

Outrage has been fanned by a string of suicides of people reportedly driven to despair by the prospect of eviction and a 41-billion-euro European bailout of Spanish banks hurt by the property crash.

The Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH) routinely sends activists to block the entrance to the homes of people about to be evicted in order to prevent police from forcibly removing them.

But earlier this year the group began staging "escraches" as well.

The protest tactic originated in Argentina in the 1990s when activists staged plays and demonstrations against human rights violations outside the homes and offices of officials of the Latin American country's former military dictatorship.

In Spain, the demonstrations have involved activists posting stickers on the entrances to the homes of Popular Party lawmakers, pushing fliers under their doors or using a blowhorn to chant slogans under their office windows.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, in power since December 2011, blasted the "escraches" as undemocratic.

"These days we see that many of our party comrades are being harassed. We have seen episodes of intimidation or verbal abuse towards them, and what is worse, to their families. Nobody deserves to be harassed, vilified, threatened or intimidated," he told a meeting of top Popular Party officials held Wednesday in Madrid.

The interior ministry has said that people who take part in "escraches" would be identified by police and punished.

Story continues below…

"Politicians do not want to change the law on mortgages. They criminalize us and say we are terrorists to not change the law," said Manuel San Pastor, a lawyer with the Platform for Mortgage Victims.

"What we want is to visually inform elected officials. They live in a bubble and are not aware of the tragedies that their policies cause."

Last month the European Court of Justice ruled that Spanish legislation infringes European Union law as it does not allow courts to halt eviction orders on the basis of possible unfair terms in mortgage agreements.

Rajoy's government has vowed to make changes to the law to ensure it complies with EU rules, but remains opposed to allowing homeowners to write off their debts by surrendering their home.

"Yet this measure exists in the United States," said Beatriz Garcia, an activist with the Platform for Mortgage Victims, at the protest held Wednesday.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.es)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Two imams arrested in Ibiza resort over 'Isis support'
The men were arrested in the resort of Sant Antoni de Portmany. Photo: Jose A / Flickr

Two Moroccan imams at a mosque on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of backing the Islamic State group and inciting jihad.

Balearic Islands choose to keep summertime forever
The islands will have longer evenings during winter. Photo: AFP

The Balearic Islands want to keep summertime when the rest of Spain turns the clocks back on Sunday.

  Brazilian had 'uncontrollable desire to kill': Spain police
Francois Patrick Nogueira Gouveia has been charged with murdering his uncle, his wife and their two children. Photo: Guardia Civil.

A Brazilian teenager accused of dismembering his uncle and aunt and killing their two young sons in a grisly crime that shocked Spain had an "uncontrollable desire to kill", police said on Monday.

Man rescued from bin after climbing in to find old clothes
Photo: Policía Local Murcia

Police were called after passersby reported hearing a man calling for help from within a rubbish bin in the Vistabella neighbourhood of Murcia, southern Spain.

Spain faces crucial week as conservatives re-take power
Mariano Rajoy hopes to form a government this week. Photo: AFP

Spain entered a crucial week as acting conservative PM Mariano Rajoy prepared to re-take power, ending ten rollercoaster months without government marked by hope and disillusion.

Eight very creepy Halloween costumes ideas from Spain
Photo: Pan's Labyrinth

Forget flamenco dancers and bullfighters, The Local counts down the freakiest alternative costume ideas to dress up in this Halloween.

Man attacked by racist thug in UK street for talking Spanish

Tomas Gil, 27, from Valencia in eastern Spain was talking to his girlfriend in their native language after a night out in the British seaside town of Poole when he was set upon by a racist thug.

Malaga: Police probe bizarre 'sex death' of homeless Brit
The man was found near Malaga airport. Photo: Dennis Howlett / Flickr

A British homeless man was found dead tied to a bench near Malaga airport with his trousers down and his genitals in a can of tuna.

Clock ticking as Spain races to avoid third elections
Third elections could now be avoided. Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialists voted on Sunday to allow the conservatives to take power, likely averting a third election for Spaniards tired of going to the polls.

Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Analysis & Opinion
Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
jobs available