Irish Daily Mail - A Family Forsaken


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Irish Daily Mail - A Family Forsaken

  1. 1. A FAMILYPage 24 Irish Daily Mail, Monday, July 9, 2012 FAMILIES raiding rubbish bins for food; an entire generation trapped by insurmountable debt; mass unemployment. In an illuminating dispatch on Saturday, Brian Carroll described the alarming challenges ordinary Spanish people face daily. FORSAKEN Today, he reveals how families have been betrayed by irresponsi- ble bankers, persistent corruption and a government too long in denial... by Brian Carroll In MadridI T’S approaching midnight on Azucena is a married mother of Friday in Plaza Mayor, a 400- year-old cobblestoned square in central Madrid. The Madrid Orchestra is playing for free on the site where they used to three forced to live in a squatburn heretics at the height of theSpanish Inquisition. Tourists and Spaniards — distinguishableby the presence of grandparents and toddlersat their tables — sit outside the restaurants after being evicted from thethat line the square, beneath elegant apart-ments painted clay-red, and framed bywrought-iron balconies. As Beethoven’s 7th Symphony lingers onthe balmy air, they drink wine and pick fromplates of suckling pig, octopus and the family home. She fears losingGalician green pepper dish of Pimientos dePadrón. Even here, surrounded by suchhistory, a three-course meal and wine costsless than €€25. My Spanish waiter, who speaks English,Dutch, German, and Italian fluently, having her children. It’s a harrowingworked across Europe in a 40-year career, Like half of those under 25 in Spain, she is unemployed parable of the financial crisisshrugs when I point to the orchestra and askhim what the special occasion is. ‘This isMadrid,’ he says simply. Spain, with its sun-soaked cultural cocktail in Spain – a country where banks are stuffed with croniesof cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Valenciaand Seville, and its coastal resorts from theCosta Bravo to the Costa del Sol, willalways attract tourists — they spent almost€€50billion here last year. But, like a bon viveurwhose good days have eventually caught and corruption is endemicup with her, beneath the surface, Spain isriddled with the economic contagion spread-ing across the eurozone and the world. Earlier on Friday, I’d travelled to northernMadrid to meet Azucena Paredes Villar, ablonde 30-year-old Spanish mother of three.She buzzed me through the electronic gatesof her apartment building — anondescript red-brick high-rise over-looking dry wasteland in Roquetas mother’s €€600 a month pension, and promised €€100billion in bailout of the neighbourhood association same — bankers were giving credit tode Mar, a working class suburb at whatever help her mother, who lives funds from the European Stability where MP lived, said he had sought everyone without any controls.the Pinar De Chamartin end of the on €€500 a month, can give her. She Mechanism — have shown no mercy. shelter for his family from the local ‘They created a bubble and nowblue Metro line. doesn’t speak English and pleads There are evictions scheduled in housing council, but had been turned everyone is suffering in Greece, in I could hear her two-year-old son through an interpreter for us not to barrios across Madrid today and down twice on the day he took his Ireland and here.’crying as I walked up the cracked photograph her children: ‘The chil- throughout the week. On average, own life. And just like hundreds of thousandsmarble steps to her second floor dren could end up in a foster home across Spain, there are 159 evictions Groups like the Plataforma de of Irish people, the Spanish weresquat. Beyond the damaged front and my grandmother in a residence.’ every day, and four out of every five Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH) induced to buy their own homes, withdoor, inside the cramped two-bed When a squatter is evicted, and involve families with children. orchestrate campaigns against the 100 per cent mortgages.apartment, I meet her sick son, and children are involved, the Directorate Suicides have increased by 20 per banks, and try to physically stop Banks often loaned up to ten timeshis two older sisters, aged three General Of Care For Children And cent since 2008, and prescriptions for evictions. However, the courts, imple- the applicant’s salary. Home owner-and five. There is a large hole in the Adolescents (DGAIA) will automati- medication to treat depression have menting a range of public order laws ship levels in Spain are among theliving room door and a sense of cally convene a meeting with the par- increased by 35 per cent. A resident introduced by the new government, highest in the EU.desperation everywhere. ent or parents to discuss custody of of Hospitalet de Llobregat, in are able to pass injunctions stopping The giant mortgage lender Bankia, Azucena’s 88-year-old grandmother, the children, if those evicted have no PAH from interfering with evictions. which is responsible for 80 per cent ofTomasa Morcillo, is asleep in another suitable alternative accommodation. As in Ireland, the people feel a huge the evictions in Madrid, has asked for ‘My childrenroom. Azucena, her children, and her Azucena tried to shield her children sense of injustice, that the banks are €€23.4billion in bailout funds — but itgrandmother are all squatters here in from the eviction but her eldest being bailed out, while all the arms is believed to have losses of morethis bank-repossessed apartment. daughter witnessed the reality of of the State — the government, the than €€100billion on its books. They were evicted from the familyhome — an apartment in a nearbybuilding — on November 18 last year, Spain’s economic collapse at first hand. ‘The eldest came home from school and found all her little things could end up in legislature, the judiciary, and the police — are used to throw people out of their homes. The Spanish equivalent of Anglo Irish Bank, Bankia’s story is a para- ble of the greed, political corruptionafter they fell behind on the €€800monthly payments. Azucena nowsleeps with her three children in one on the street and she got scared,’ Azucena said. ‘We told her the old house broke and that’s why we’re in a foster home’ Olmo Gálvez, a 31-year-old IT entrepreneur who spent three years working in China before returning to and lack of regulation which has now forced Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Iceland, Cyprus and Spain to seekroom, with her grandmother in the the new one.’ Madrid in 2010, tells me: ‘The EU is bailouts. Spain was promised €€100bnother. Her partner has since moved There are 300,000 others in Madrid Madrid, hung himself in a park near giving money to the banks but the for its banks on June 29, but alreadyback in with his parents, like 50 per who are threatened with eviction his home, after his two years on banks must pay interest to the ECB. the markets have issued their judg-cent of Spanish 30-year-olds. after falling behind on mortgage the dole ran out and he received an ‘Someone has to pay for it, but ment — the crucial ten-year bond Azucena is unemployed, like one in payments or rents. When the police eviction notice. many of the banks are broke. Spain yield in Spain, the amount thetwo people aged under 25 in Spain. came to evict Azucena and her family, Identified only as MP, he was a will not carry the debt, so someone government in Madrid pays to bor-She used to survive on €€390 a month protesters fought with them on the 45-year-old electrician, married with else will have to pay it. We are not row, soared back above seven perfrom welfare, but in Spain the dole is street outside, and neighbours helped one daughter, and, like 1.5million going to repay a debt that has been cent on Friday. Spain’s conservativecut off after two years. kick in the door of the nearby apart- others in Spain, had lost his job due artificially created by bankers, politi- government — run by the Popular She now gets by on emergency ment she now illegally occupies. The to the collapse of the construction cians and investors. In Ireland, Party — has been telling its peoplefunding from charities, her grand- Spanish banks — who have been industry. Juan Alvarez, the chairman Greece and Iceland it happened the that the State hasn’t been rescued,
  2. 2. Irish Daily Mail, Monday, July 9, 2012 Page 41 Vibrant: Madrid’s Plaza Mayor remains a hub of activity this year alone. Income taxes have Guardamar are in Russian — because increased while, as in Ireland, various they are now the only ones investing indirect levies are further squeezing in property. Meanwhile, the Chinese middle incomes. are taking over vacant commercial With plans to cut tax reliefs on indi- units with giant low-cost hyper- vidual property investments and to markets that are driving Spanish increase VAT to 18 per cent across a providers out of business. range of services — including restau- In the Costa Blanca area there is so rants and bars which currently pay a much hot money circulating, locals maximum of 8 per cent — Spain used to call €€500 notes Bin Ladens hopes to squeeze another €€8billion — because the authorities would nev- out of taxpayers in 2013. er find them. The ECB has allegedly These are harsh measures, but Spain tracked more €€500 notes in circula- has to cough up €€27.5billion in matur- tion in Costa Blanca than any other ing debt by the end of October and it part of the EU. Although Osama bin has only weeks to agree terms for the Laden is now dead, the black market first €€40billion of that immense is thriving across Spain, which has €€100billion bailout. Indeed, Reuters one of the highest rates of non-tax has quoted government sources paying workers in the EU, according saying that unless Spain gets this to the European Centre For Econom- €€40billion by the end of July, national- ic And Social Rights. ised lenders Bankia, CatalunyaCaixa, Spain’s Gestha Union of Tax NovaGalicia and Banco de Valencia Inspectors (GESTHA) estimates the will collapse. The money will not come annual tax loss is equivalent to without conditions, however, and the €€88billion a year. It’s not surprising, price for an EU-backed bailout will be against such a backdrop of political long overdue reform of Spain’s politi- and banking corruption, close to cal and banking sectors — politicians €€100billion was taken out of Spain and political appointees still control- last year alone. led 80 per cent of Spain’s financial In shades of Fianna Fáil’s nefarious institutions in 2010. past, party apparatchiks presided Party hacks and even politicial over dubious planning decisions wives and girlfriends were appointed across Spain. Luis Rivera Gurrea- to the boards of banks throughout Nozaleda works with start-up Spain. The CAM bank in Valencia, companies in the internet and mobile industry in Madrid. He says some work has been done to reform the system, but the last bastions of One bank had a power are the politicians themselves and the estimated 250,000 who earn ballet dancer State payments through public serv- ice jobs. ‘Very little has been done around the 150,000 politicians in on its committee Spain and the 250,000 non-political politicians — those people who are union representatives or who have public function type jobs and get a which received a €€6billion bailout government subsidy. That is what we from Spanish taxpayers had a ballet have to start cleaning up. No-one dancer on its ‘control committee’. has started addressing that.’ And Bankia, then headed by Joe Haslam is professor at the Rodrigo Rato, a close political ally of School of Entrepreneurship at the IE Rajoy, falsified its accounts, ahead of Business School in Madrid. From a share offering. It claimed it had Ireland, he believes reforms will work, made a €€309million profit, when in but only if the older order moves aside fact another set of accounts showed to let the generation born after 1975 the true picture: losses of €€3billion. — the year Franco died and democ- Struggle: Azucena Following a court ruling last week, racy returned to Spain — flourish. Paredes Villar Rato will now face criminal charges. ‘Spain has a far better than chance squats illegally Meanwhile, Aurelio Izquierdo, one of a return to growth than Greece, of Bankia’s leading executives con- Italy or Portugal. The pre-democracy with her children tinues to draw a €€14million pension. generation has done a good job and grandmother The stories of corruption are legion. in bringing stability after 40 years In the Costa Blanca area —best largely cut off from the world, but known to Irish holiday-makers for re- now they need to hand over to the sorts like Alicante — mayors of towns new generation, those born after took suitcases of cash to approve 1975, who are more outward looking dodgy planning developments. On and allow them to bloom.’ Saturday, I took the three-and-a-half From 1936 to 1938, the people ofjust its banks. But less than ten protested with a nationwide Spanish government insisted until hour train journey from Madrid to Madrid led a bizarre double life, asdays after a €€100billion bank bail- strike. In Valencia 98 per cent 2010 that there was no economic cri- Alicante, where in the nearby town of they fought Franco’s advance without, it now seems certain Spain — the of pharmacists went on strike in June sis in Spain before it was ousted from Orihuela, the mayor, Monica Lorente, the catchphrase ‘No pasaran’ (TheyEU’s fifth largest economy — will power by Mariano Rajoy’s Popular and five members of the Popular shall not pass), and went about theirneed more money, just to run the Party in November. However much Party, have been indicted on corrup- daily lives while bombers strafedcountry and keep paying benefits toits 4.6million unemployed. Despite already having the highest Spain spends Rajoy insists on spinning that every- thing is alright with the Spanish cof- fers, the days of Spanish procrastina- tion charges. In a case that’s seen as typical of endemic local political corruption in Spain: the mayor and Madrid and artillery fire turned the Gran Via, Madrid’s main thorough- fare, into ‘Howitzer Alley’.unemployment rate in the EU, abailout for Spain’s banks will mean €64billion more tion, and Mañana politics are over. Spain, with a 46million population, her party colleagues are accused of rigging public service contracts, to grant lucrative rubbish collection For two years, they refused to accept the reality that they were surrounded on all sides, before finally than it takes inmore austerity for Azucena and her spends €€64billion a year more than itcompatriots — who have already seen takes in — compared to Ireland’s licences to friends of the Popular negotiating a surrender in 1939.€€10billion of cuts in education and €€9.4billion deficit. Party, which currently runs Spain. There is a growing feeling inhealth, as well as increased VAT Spain’s middle class has already In an area where most earn less Europe, particularly in Germany, thatcharges, and a series of indirect been squeezed by direct tax increas- than €€15,000 a year, there are no long- Spain needs to end the political cha-taxation hikes. The bite of austerity because the government couldn’t pay es aimed at raising more than er any cranes on the skyline of Costa rade that everything is OK, and admitis becoming more severe across them the €€480million it owes for dis- €€6illion and spending cuts designed Blanca. The advertising hoardings that along with its banks, the Statesociety. Teachers have already pensing medicines. The previous to deliver over €€9billion in savings that dot the roads from Alicante to and its people are also in trouble.