Testosterone Pit – Home – The New “Nazis” of Spain

Las maneras “democráticas” del PP llegan a uno de los más famosos blogs anglosajones

On Saturday, Popular Party Secretary-General María Dolores de Cospedal, number two of the governing party in Spain, said that she knew she was going to get criticized, “but this is pure Nazism.” On Sunday, rather than resigning, she repeated it. For more precision, she added that going to someone’s house to “harass” him “is a totalitarian attitude comparable to what occurred in the thirties in a European country.” A reference to Nazis marking the homes of Jews.

These “Nazis” are activists with a special word for their action: escrache. It had become popular in Argentina in 1995 after President Carlos Menem pardoned collaborators of the Junta. Activists with banners would gather in front of the home or office of a pardoned perpetrator. They’d chant and play music to let neighbors know. While Junta members were beyond the law, they could still be publicly humiliated.

In Spain, escraches were sparked by the implosion of the housing bubble and the coincident rise in unemployment: people fell behind on their mortgages and got evicted from their homes. But unlike in the US, Spanish homeowners borrow under a draconian law where the bank, after the eviction, saddles ex-homeowners with the debt for life.

The law allows the bank to credit the mortgage with only 50% – since 2011 with 60% – of the value of the home, writes Yaiza Hernández in her exposé on escraches. After fees and sky-high default interest, the debt that the ex-homeowner owes is often as high as the original mortgage amount. The law was designed to protect the same banks that ate up subsidies, falsified their books, engaged in dubious transactions, collapsed, and were bailed out with tens of billions of euros.

In 2008, the anger against the banks gave rise to the movement Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH). It soon established a network throughout Spain. When eviction notices were issued, activists would show up to impede the eviction through their physical presence. In 2010, PAH was one of the groups behind a Popular Legislative Initiative (ILP) to change the mortgage law so that banks would have to cancel the debt after foreclosing on the home – a non-recourse mortgage. They collected 1.5 million signatures, enough to present it to parliament. And in February, 90% of the population agreed that foreclosure should cancel the mortgage.

But the PP government, in its truly democratic manner – it’s already embroiled in A Vast Political Espionage Scandal To Top Off The Sordid Corruption Scandal – didn’t allow the motion to proceed to parliament, despite the outcry it caused. Frustrations rose to the boiling point. Hence escraches.

The PAH started targeting PP Members of Parliament who were blocking the ILP. Activists would gather in front of their homes or offices, chant, and hold up their slogan, written on a pair of round signs: “yes we can,” on the green one, “but they don’t want to,” on the red one (photo). An escrache, according to the guidelines (PDF), is an “informative action” without verbal or physical aggression.

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