Spain is facing its second general strike in a year against the government’s austerity measures. In the early hours of 14 December protestors were already arriving in Madrid in response to the call by the country’s main labour unions CCOO and UGT, USO and CGT.
Unemployment in Spain is running at 25 per cent, the highest in the European Union. However the greatest popular concern is now focused on rising evictions and a series of tragic suicides among those who have been turned out of their houses.
In some towns mayors are taking measures into their own hands against banks and have threatened to close their accounts unless there is a change of policy. Other local administrations are threatening to refuse tenders for public works from banks who persist in a strict evictions policy. Some local police forces have also said that they will support their members who refuse to carry out eviction orders.
There have been over 400,000 home repossessions in the last five years. In many cases houses are then left empty, as banks have not come up with rent-back policies to dispossessed owners.
The government is now examining the possibility of a freeze on evictions for two years and some of the banks have said that they are prepared to examine vulnerable cases. However opposition parties are calling for a change in the banking laws on mortgages, which date back to the beginning of the 20th century.
The previous general strike in March this year ended in violence across the country. In the early hours of 14 November there have already been several arrests in Madrid and police have been given orders to crack down on acts of violence.