SPAIN: Spain: Gamonal is only the beginning. Demonstrations against urban-political corruption
During the past two weeks, the residents of the Burgos neighbourhood of Gamonal have won “a great little victory” and have become a symbol of citizen participation in politics. Their protest against corruption, whose cause was their objection to the construction of a boulevard with a parking in their neighbourhood, has provoked a wave of solidarity demonstration throughout Spain.
During the six day protest in Burgos, 46 people were arrested, six of which have been sent to prison with a €3,000 bail. The solidarity demonstrations are counting twenty confirmed detainees until now in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, San Sebastian, Santander and Zaragoza.
In Madrid, the demonstration organised on Wednesday 15th of January by the Coordinator 25S under the slogan “Solidarity to Burgos, Gamonal Resists, free the detainees”, ended up in the detention of fourteen people, including three minors. Police crack-down was brutal as we see in several videos on the internet, including the following, where a policeman can be heard telling his colleagues, who were beating people indiscriminately,: “Okay, okay, you are perfect for the camera” (1’37”).
On January 17th, the Mayor of Burgos, Javier Lacalle, announced the permanent cessation of the works to transform the boulevard street of Vitoria Gamonal, being “impossible” to continue with the project.
Nevertheless, the solidarity demonstration planned in Barcelona took place and ended with some burnt containers and some vandalised bank branches. It has resulted in three detainees, including two minors, and five policemen injured during the attack to a police station (video) against which the protesters threw chairs and tables.
But how could a protest by residents of a large industrial park of 70,000 inhabitants, situated far from the capital and for an issue of regional concern have so much impact?
The real reason behind it is urban corruption, and especially the contractor Antonio Miguel Méndez Pozo, “the boss”, also owner of the region’s most widely read newspaper, the Diario de Burgos, who managed for years the redevelopment of the City controlled by the right.
To give to you an idea of Mr. Mendez Pozo, he was sentenced to seven years and seven months in prison, but only served nine months, he was a close friend of José María Aznar, who had to declare their close relationships and his construction companies are among the major debtors of the bankrupt Caja Castilla-La Mancha.
So we are no longer surprised by the fact that the neighbourhood of Burgos was for years (before the housing bubble) one of the cities with the most expensive housing in Spain, right below Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastian.
The residents of Gamonal, which is the neighbourhood of Burgos most hit by the crisis, protest against the idea of building an underground paying parking in an area where now they park for free. They also consider the eight million euro budget for the work, driven by Mendez Pozo, excessive. So the residents decided through an assembly to stop the works and continue the ongoing demonstration that prevented on Monday the bulldozers from resuming work.
The Secretary of State for Security, Francisco Martínez, tried to link the Burgos protesters with “infiltrators”, “roaming” violent groups whose only interest is not the vindication of the residents but “the use of violence” and who have participated in demonstrations in Madrid and in Castilla y León and, in an attempt to kill two birds with one stone, tried to justify the Law on Citizen protection. However, the detainees of Burgos are all locals and have no police record.
Despite the victory of the residents of Gamonal, an assembly of more than 300 residents decided to continue what they call the “Gamonal Movement”, a grassroots movement of the many that have sprung out in Spain in recent years the “crisis”.
Photos from Madrid