Activists set up supermarket sweep to feed poor
ROBIN HOOD-type political activists have sacked supermarkets in the south of Spain in what they say is a symbolic response to the country’s ever-deepening economic crisis.
Two members of the SAT labour union were charged yesterday with theft and harassment in the southern region of Andalusia for their involvement in two food grabs earlier this week.
Both times dozens of people entered supermarkets and left without paying while pushing trolleys full of food. TV images of one of the actions showed supermarket employees remonstrating with those taking the goods, who said it was destined for local charities.
The robberies took place near the cities of Córdoba and Cádiz.
“There are people who don’t have enough to eat,” said Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, the mayor of the town of Marinaleda, who supervised one of the actions by giving orders through a megaphone to those taking the food.
“So we’ve decided to expropriate basic foodstuffs and give them to a soup kitchen, which is having difficulties finding enough food for everyone, because demand has gone up.”
Mr Sánchez Gordillo also said more supermarket raids would take place. “In Andalusia and in Spain, it’s not the political powers that are in charge, it’s the banks, who have no heart, feelings or country.”
A deputy for the United Left Party in the Andalusian parliament, Mr Sánchez Gordillo is a well-known and controversial figure. He was not one of the two men arrested, although he was reportedly issued with a court summons.
Another local mayor, Pedro Romero, also took part in one of the supermarket raids.
The activists received the support of the former leader of the United Left, Gaspar Llamazares, who called the sackings a “symbolic” gesture.
“Right now, we’re seeing things that surprise, hurt and outrage us,” he said, “so if this was because of a dramatic situation, to help people who are in need, even the penal code justifies it.”
The government has taken a dim view of the incidents. “We all know that there are people who are having a difficult time, but the end doesn’t justify the means,” said interior minister Jorge Fernández Díaz, whose department gave the order for the arrests.
Spain has Europe’s highest unemployment rate, at 24.8 per cent. Andalusia is one of the regions that has been most affected by the current economic crisis, with a jobless rate of 34 per cent, rising to 63 per cent for people under the age of 25.
The labour ministry said yesterday that a €400 monthly handout for the country’s lowest-income unemployed had not been available to 200,000 beneficiaries in July or the beginning of August, due to an administrative problem.
The conservative government of Mariano Rajoy has faced social unrest throughout its seven months in power, with frequent street protests against austerity measures and a controversial labour reform. The use of state funds to rescue mismanaged banks has further fuelled public anger, with the threat of a full sovereign bailout looming.
The government is now bracing itself for a particularly turbulent autumn, as labour unions plan massive demonstrations against economic policy for September. The interior minister acknowledged as much yesterday.
“It’s obvious that there’s going to be a certain level of social conflict at times like this,” he said.