Spain's 'indignant' protesters block home foreclosures

18th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Protestors are gaining in strength as they push to stop foreclosures and evictions from citizens struggling for means to meet their mortgage payments because of the economic crisis.

Marid -- Luis Dominguez, a 74-year-old who walks with a crutch, woke at 5:00 am earlier this month to stand outside the home of a woman he has never met and prevent officials from evicting her for failing to pay the mortgage.

Three weeks earlier about 100 activists from Spain's "indignant" protest movement did the same for Dominguez, saving him from being kicked out of his apartment in Parla, a working class Madrid suburb.

Dominguez said his eviction had now been put off until September or October, but he hopes to have renegotiated the terms of his outstanding debt of EUR  90,000 with his bank before then.

"I am very happy and much more relaxed," he said as he stood among activists wearing green t-shirts that read "Stop Evictions" outside the apartment building of Maria Jose del Coto Maeso, who had been due for eviction.

"I am dedicated to this cause. These kids fight hard. This is solidarity of the people," he added.

A group that works to stop repossessions has been active mainly in Barcelona since 2009.

But the "indignant" movement, which emerged after protesters set up camp in Madrid's Puerta del Sol square in May to demonstrate over the weak economy, has provided an army of activists ready to help across the country.

"Indignant" protesters have helped stop dozens of other foreclosures in recent weeks, including that of a retired couple in the northern town of Orkoien and of an unemployed single mother in the port of Valencia.

They succeeded again, as officials failed to turn up to deliver an eviction notice to Maeso as had been scheduled after some 200 activists blocked the entrance to her four-storey apartment building in Madrid's Ciudad Lineal neighbourhood in response to an appeal posted on social networking sites.

"I felt really happy, immense joy because we achieved something, thanks to people who we don't know. These are wonderful people," she said as she stood in the living room of her cramped apartment.

She and her 25-year-old daughter, an unemployed history teacher, and 26-year-old son, who is handicapped since he suffered an accident as a toddler, survive on government assistance of just under 700 euros a month.

They have struggled to pay the roughly 200,000 euros still owed to savings bank Caja Mediterraneo.

"They don't want to live in the apartment without paying, they want to pay according to their abilities," said Eloi Morte, spokesman for a Madrid group that fights against repossessions.

The activists chanted "We will stop this eviction" and "Maria Jose you are not alone" as they stood for hours outside of the apartment building as neighbours looked on from the windows of nearby apartment blocks.

The number of house repossessions has swelled since the collapse of a property bubble in 2008. That caused the jobless rate to soar to 21.29 percent in the first quarter of this year, the highest rate in the industrialized world.

Spanish courts carried out a record 93,622 foreclosure last year, nearly four times the amount in 2007, according to the body which oversees Spain's judiciary, the CGPJ.

Campaigners argue Spain's foreclosure procedures tilt far too much in favour of the banks.

They want the government to change the law to allow mortgage debts to be cleared simply by giving banks the keys to the property as is the case in many other European Union countries and the United States.

Under Spanish law, banks have the right to auction houses in a foreclosure. If no buyers appears, as is often the case, the bank can take ownership of the house for part of its value.

Earlier this month the government raised this percentage to 60 percent from 50 percent, which will leave a defaulter with a smaller debt to pay off. It also lifted the amount of a borrower's monthly income that cannot be seized by a bank in case of default on a home loan to EUR 961 euros from EUR 641.

While Morte welcomed the measures, he said they were "clearly insufficient". Lenders had to assume responsibility for the risks they took during boom times, he said.

"Banks handed out mortgages like they were loaves of bread," he said.

Daniel Silva / AFP / Expatica

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