Thousands Surround Spanish Parliament in Bid to "Occupy Congress" and Stop Austerity
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AMY GOODMAN: Some of the voices from the protests Tuesday in Madrid, produced by Brandon Jourdan and Carlos Delclos. On Thursday, the Spanish government is expected to announce further austerity measures. The Bank of Spain has said the country’s recession was deepening at a, quote, "significant pace." When we come back from break, we’ll go to Democracy Now! correspondent Maria Carrion in Madrid. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Joining us from Madrid is Democracy Now! correspondent and independent journalist Maria Carrion, who has been at the protest all day yesterday.
Maria, welcome to Democracy Now!
MARIA CARRION: Thank you, Amy. Good to be with you.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what’s happening.
MARIA CARRION: Well, as you, as your viewers and listeners have been able to see, it’s a very serious situation here in Spain. This is just the latest of many, many protests that we have been having here in Spain, in the last year, especially, and there will be many more coming. People have lost faith in government. People have lost faith in the main institutions. And we are facing 27 billion euros in social spending cuts. Every week, the government unveils a series of new measures that affect primarily education and health and salaries and the welfare of Spanish people. And as we saw at the top of the hour, Greece is really an example of what’s coming our way, and that’s why I think people are so enraged and so worried, because they see that none of the measures imposed on Greece on in Portugal or in Ireland are having any sort of effect on the economy, on people’s welfare, on employment. And so, I think people are saying we do not want to head in that same direction.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Maria Carrion, you’ve spoken also about some of the effects on people already with the austerity measures in place, quite apart from what might happen tomorrow. Can you talk in particular about housing and food?
MARIA CARRION: Housing is a big issue because a lot of Spaniards ended up buying houses or homes back during the main housing boom. And what has happened since then is that, first of all, they bought these houses at very inflated prices, as happened in many other places. But here we have over 25 percent of unemployment, so as people began to lose their jobs and as the housing payments went up, the mortgages went up, more and more people lost their homes. There has been a repossession of many, many, many homes. And in Spain, there’s something very unique to our system, which is that even once your—the bank repossesses your home, and even when you’re evicted from your home and you lose your home, you still are liable for the entire debt, which means that not only are people on the street or having to, you know, find alternative housing and pay for it, but they also owe hundreds of thousands to the banks. This is aggravated also by the fact that most of these banks are being bailed out right now to the tune of 100 million euros, which is about $130 million—I’m sorry, 130 billion euros, which is $130 billion, because of their irresponsible lending practices.
So, on the one hand, you have all these repossessions and a social movement born out of this that is trying to stop these evictions and these repossessions and negotiate debt with the banks in the name of the families; and on the other hand, you also have a tremendous amount of poverty and hunger. Now we have 22 percent of Spanish households live in poverty, but about 11.5 million people are at risk of poverty. This means that a lot of people are having to go to food banks, where they never had to go for help. A lot of these people are very embarrassed. And, in fact, food banks have had to change the way they look, so that people are not seen to be going in and out by their neighbors. They’ve removed a lot of the signs saying "food bank," and people know where they are. But they look more like supermarkets to sort of normalize the situation. So, there’s a lot of hunger now, as well, and a lot of people at risk for, you know, homelessness. And then you have—you know, education has gone up, and you have the undocumented immigrants who no longer have any rights to healthcare. So, you have just a situation of poverty, increased poverty in Spain, increasing poverty. You’re seeing that that’s the way that Portugal and Greece have gone, as well.