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The Pain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain (Folk)
Posted on Jul 11, 2012
By Amy Goodman
As Spain’s prime minister announced deep austerity cuts Wednesday in order to secure funds from the European Union to bail out Spain’s failing banks, the people of Spain have taken to the streets once again for what they call “Real Democracy Now.” This comes a week after the government announced it was launching a criminal investigation into the former CEO of Spain’s fourth-largest bank, Bankia. Rodrigo Rato is no small fish: Before running Bankia he was head of the International Monetary Fund. What the U.S. media don’t tell you is that this official government investigation was initiated by grass-roots action.
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The occupation of Puerta del Sol and other plazas around Spain continued, but, as with Occupy Wall Street encampments around the U.S., they were eventually broken up. The organizing continued, though, with issue-oriented working groups and neighborhood assemblies. One M-15 working group decided to sue Rodrigo Rato, and recruited pro bono lawyers and identified more than 50 plaintiffs, people who felt they’d been personally defrauded by Bankia. While the lawyers were volunteers, a massive lawsuit costs money, so this movement, driven by social media, turned to “crowd funding,” to the masses of supporters in their movement for small donations. In less than a day, they raised more than $25,000. The lawsuit was filed in June of this year.
Olmo Galvez is another M-15 organizer I met with in Madrid. A young businessman with experience around the world, Galvez was profiled in Time magazine when they chose “The Protester” as the Person of the Year. Rato’s alleged fraud at Bankia involved the sale of Bankia “preferred stock” to regular account holders, so-called retail investors, since sophisticated investors were not buying it. Galvez explained: “They were selling it to people—some of them couldn’t read, many were elderly. That was a big scandal that wasn’t in the media.” Some who invested in Bankia’s scheme had to sign the contract with a fingerprint because they couldn’t write, nor could they read about, let alone understand, what they were sinking their savings into.
This week, thousands of coal miners marched to Madrid, some walking 240 miles from Asturias, on Spain’s northern coast. When the miners arrived in Madrid Tuesday night, according to the online publication ElDiario.es, they chanted “somos el 99 percent” (“we are the 99 percent”) and were greeted like heroes. Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, of the right-wing Partido Popular, made his latest pronouncement on austerity measures: an increase in the sales tax, cuts to the public-sector payroll, and shortening the period of unemployment support to six months.
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Stephane Grueso sums up the movement: “We are not a party. We are not a union. We are not an association. We are people. We want to expel corruption from public life ... now, today, maybe it is starting to happen.”
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,000 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.
© 2012 Amy Goodman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate
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