July 2012, Week 2


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Sat, 14 Jul 2012 11:52:06 -0400
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The Pain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain (Folk)

By Amy Goodman
July 11, 2012


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.

The Occupy movement in Spain is called M-15, for
the day it began, May 15, 2011. I met with one of
the key organizers in Madrid last week on the day
the Rato investigation was announced. He smiled,
and said, "Something is starting to happen." The
organizer, Stephane Grueso, is an activist filmmaker
who is making a documentary about the May 15
movement. He is a talented professional, but, like
25 percent of the Spanish population, he is
unemployed: "We didn't like what we were seeing,
where we were going. We felt we were losing our
democracy, we were losing our country, we were
losing our way of life. ... We had one slogan:
`Democracia real YA!'-we want a `real democracy,
now!' Fifty people stayed overnight in Puerta del Sol,
this public square. And then the police tried to take
us out, and so we came back. And then this thing
began to multiply in other cities in Spain. In three,
four days' time, we were like tens of thousands of
people in dozens of cities in Spain, camped in the
middle of the city-a little bit like we saw in Tahrir
in Egypt."

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

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.

As Rajoy was making his announcement in
parliament, the miners were in the streets, joined by
thousands of regular citizens, all demanding that
government cuts be halted. The marchers were met
by riot police, who fired rubber-coated steel balls
and tear gas at them. Some protesters returned with
volleys of firecrackers and other projectiles, and, in
the ensuing melee, at least 76 were injured and
eight arrested.

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."

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this

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

c 2012 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate


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