At least two people in Spain have killed themselves as bailiffs appeared outside their doors to evict them for failing to pay their mortgages. In a suburb of Bilbao, an unnamed 53-year-old woman who had worked at a bus depot and whose husband was a former town councillor, jumped from a fourth floor balcony. 53-year-old Jose Miguel Domingo hanged himself in the city of Granada on October 25.
Under Spain’s mortgage laws, those who are unable to make their agreed mortgage payments face not only eviction but must also pay what is left on the mortgage, plus penalty interest charges and thousands of dollars in court fees, even after declaring bankruptcy. More than 280,000 people have been caught in what the Independent calls this “trap” since the 2008 property crash. Some 500 Spaniards are evicted every day, says the government.
Outraged at the suicides, Spaniards are demanding a reform of the country’s foreclosure legislation, whichis weighted in favor of the banks. The terrible human toll of repossessions has finally gotten prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s government to set up a task force. Indeed, this month, European Court of Justice’s advocate general, Juliane Kokott, said that Spanish legal rules regarding eviction are “incompatible with European norms.”
Banks came under fire during a day of coordinated strikes and protests throughout the euro zone on Wednesday. Massive amounts of bad loans made by banks have meant that the Spanish government had to request a bailout from the European Union last June; the terms of the bailout have required Madrid to make even more budget cuts to public services, jobs and pensions.
Spain and Portugal saw general strikes in which protesters clashed, sometimes violently, with police. 142 were arrested and 74 people (including a number of police officers) injured. Hundreds of fights were cancelled, public transportation was shut down in a number of countries and production at some factories ground to a halt. Government officials in Spain downplayed the strikes and demonstrations, stating that the country had no other choice to curb a 25 percent unemployment rate and an economy that is not only in recession, but predicted not to grow until 2014.
But the day after what organizers called a historic day of coordinated actions in which millions participated, figures show that the European economy has contracted for a second quarter and is again in a recession. Economists are saying that the double-dip recession is “entirely self-made,” the result of the harsh austerity polices governments in Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Greece have implemented in successive rounds. Noting that Germany’s economy has still grown, Paul de Grauwe, a professor at the London School of Economics, says in the BBC:
This divide, even hostility, between countries is stronger than I have seen in the last 20 years. The degree of austerity has now put so many people in terrible conditions that they reject all of this. That’s a very dangerous situation.
De Grauwe’s words ring too truly when applied to the situation in Spain. The evictions have also led to a wave of homelessness. With no options, many people are taking over vacant properties or even returning to their old homes. As 67-year-old, Ana López Corral, who slept in the entrance hall of her building the first night after being evicted, tells the New York Times: “It was the worst thing ever. You can’t imagine what it felt like to be there in that hall. It’s a story you can’t really tell because it is not the same as living it.”
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