EUROPEAN SPRING UPRISING BEGINS FROM SPAIN

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In the lead up to local and regional elections this week, it is Spain’s turn for the people to take to the streets in their thousands in mass protests at the state of the economy, spending cuts and a high level of unemployment. There are fears over the nation’s debt and that this may even trigger a collapse of the euro.

People of all ages joined together in Madrid on Wednesday to march from Plaza de Cibeles to the Puerta del Sol carrying banners with slogans such as “there is no democracy when the markets rule” and “violence is a 600 euros per month salary”. Spaniards are looking for accountability from government and hold banners stating, “make the guilty pay for the crisis”…

There is the feeling off a lost generation as many young people (often well qualified) are unable to find meaningful employment or any job at all. Protests are not limited to Madrid but were sparked off across the country in many cities including Barcelona, Valencia and Seville. Opinion polls suggest that the opposition conservative People’s Party will easily defeat Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialists, whose support is suffering due to the economic crisis.

In scenes reminiscent of Tahrir Square, Egypt… families and friends with their sheets of
cardboard bed down for the night and seem determined to hang on until Sunday, election day. The protests are largely peaceful though there has been sporadic street violence with M and G news reporting 5 police officers and 2 others individuals injured as protestors clashed with riot police, 24 people were detained.

I interviewed one protestor Teresa Gerdes, an American citizen now living in Spain and doing a PhD at the Universidad Autonoma, Madrid. I put forward a series of questions
and these are her responses:-

1) What has sparked the demonstrations?

The most obvious reason why people are out demonstrating is due to the high level of unemployment; nearly 5 million Spaniards are without jobs, with unemployment climbing rapidly to 50% in the Spanish youth.  Other reasons are cutbacks in unemployment benefits, education, as well as pension and labor reforms.

2) Who is leading the protests?

Democracia Real Ya – Read Democracy Now Real Democracy Now is a platform of different social movements which is not associated with any political party. IU -Izquierda Unida  (The United Left) is the only major political party that supports this movement, but the platform has made it very clear that they have no ties to any political party; they are concerned citizens, who want to see real change inSpain.

3) What are your grievances?

The youth and working class are conscious of the fact that we have been mandated by politicians and the banks to adopt austere measures in order to pull the country out of the
recession, while the elite receive millions in their dealings.  For this reason, one of our slogans has been, “They do not represent us!” The political class is out of touch with reality. They are in government to represent the people, but what is obvious is that
they have turned a deaf ear to what we are saying. Corruption is another
big problem in Spain. Both major political parties, the PP (Popular Party) and PSOE (The Socialists) are currently under investigation. The most publicized case is the Gürtel case in
Valencia where the PP party and the mayor are accused of rampant corruption. (see link below) Again, we are tired of seeing this abuse of power in which some are filling their pockets, while the people have to continue to make more and more sacrifices.

4) What do you hope to achieve?

It is time for change. It is clear that the current political system is totally bankrupt. Democracia Real Ya has initiated this change, we are ordinary citizens and we are empowered. We want more direct participation, a more “hands on” styled democracy that will listen to the youth and the workers. We need jobs with reasonable wages, a quality public education system, a free public health care system, housing that is economically accessible, and alternative economic plans for those who are at risk of losing their homes due to the crisis. This current political system is bankrupt; it benefits no one except the political class and those who they are defending. Now is the time for change and not just in Spain, but in the entire world. We have been inspired by the Arab spring; it is time that we join in solidarity with people from around the world, to share with them that the time has come for us to claim what is ours.

5) What needs to be done for change to occur?

Obviously this is just the beginning. We will continue to protest and gather in Sol until Sunday which coincides with municipal elections. Hopefully everyone will go out and vote so that the political parties can see that we mean business. After Sunday, the platform will be collaborating with other like-minded groups in order to implement new initiatives.

6) What did you personally get out of attending the protest…?

I am a member of the group, Rumbo a Gaza which works in solidarity with Palestine and is part of the international initiative to break the Israeli siege on Gaza. As citizens of the world, we have the right to demand our governments to act democratically in their dealings with countries around the world. International pressure was put on South
Africa to end its policy of apartheid, but it was the people who had to make their voices heard before their government took action. The same situation is happening in Palestine. Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people. We are now making demands for domestic policies and we have every right to demand that our government represent us internationally. I am convinced that the vast majority of
Spaniards want a foreign policy that promotes diplomacy and peace and not war
and oppression.

Thank-you Teresa…

LINKS

Article on PP corruption…

http://www.elpais.com/articulo/english/Police/report/shows/Popular/Party/officials/taking/Gurtel/payouts/elpepueng/20110425elpeng_2/Ten

Video of protests…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZ55PC-ElSE

Carol Grayson is Director Co-ordination
Asia Despatch and a UK researcher /campaigner on global health/human rights
awarded ESRC Michael Young Prize 2009

About Carol Anne Grayson

Blogging for Humanity.... Campaigner/researcher global health/human rights/drones/WOT/insurgency http://www.esrc.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/PO/experts/Health_and_Wellbeing.aspx Exec Producer of Oscar nominated documentary Incident in New Baghdad, currently filming on drones.
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3 Responses to EUROPEAN SPRING UPRISING BEGINS FROM SPAIN

  1. Yair Racheli says:

    How did we get from a “European Spring Uprising” article to “Teresa Gerdes, an American citizen now living in Spain and doing a PhD at the Universidad Autonoma, Madrid” who just happens to belong to “Rumbo a Gaza which works in solidarity with Palestine and is part of the international initiative to break the Israeli siege on Gaza”? It seems a ’roundabout’ way to get to your real point….doesn’t???

    Regarding the so-called “Freedom Flotilla” that Rumbo a Gaza (provides financial support through various charities), the Israel Navy had previously requested the ships to redirect toward Ashdod where they would be able to unload their aid supplies which would then be transferred over land after undergoing security inspections. So, the so-called ‘activists’ on-board these ships were just there to provoke an Israeli response and, hopefully, international sympathy…..sounds like the normal strategy used by sympathizers.

    Israeli military officials have said that the amount of goods found on these 6 ships are a drop in the sea compared to the amount of goods that regularly pass into Gaza and extrapolated that it indicates that transfer of humanitarian assistance was not the top priority of the flotilla’s organizers. According to the military, the 25-odd truckloads of equipment offloaded from these 6 ships is roughly a quarter of the amount Israel transported into the Gaza strip every day. According to the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, 100 truckloads of assorted goods are transferred into Gaza daily, and since the beginning of the year, nearly 11,000 trucks full of equipment have been transferred into Gaza.

    Regarding the types of goods found in the ships’ cargo holds – wheelchairs, stretchers, hospital beds, electric wheelchairs, crutches, bandages, cotton swabs as well as food, clothing and toys – sources in the Gaza CLA say they are regularly allowed into Gaza and are not in shortage. More than likely, this 6 ship flotilla was a ‘dry-run’ to see if they could INDEED run the blockade with international pressure on Israel to not intervene so that the next large flotilla would actually contain military related items needed by the Iranian trained and backed Quds forces in Gaza.

    Come on Carol. Do you really think Israel will allow the Iranian proxy, Hamas, to have access to war supplies to wage war against them despite your article basically condemning Israel for defending itself against Hamas who refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Prior to 1948, only 22% of the population in Israel was even Arab. The rest were non-Arabs.

    In 1967, Gamal Abdel Nasser announced: “The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel…to face the challenge, while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world. Today they will know that the Arabs are arranged for battle, the critical hour has arrived. We have reached the stage of serious action and not declarations.”

    President Abdur Rahman Aref of Iraq joined in the war of words and stated “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear — to wipe Israel off the map.” On June 4, Iraq joined the military alliance with Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

    Unfortunately for these Arab military forces arrayed against Israel, they were ALL defeated by the Israelis in only six days (1967 Six Day war). Today, Iran is setting the stage for the use of a nuclear weapon against Israel via one of it’s proxies….Hamas, Hezbollah-Lebanon, or Hezbollah-Syria. When this happens, Israel will know exactly WHOM to retaliate in-kind. Then, you will have something to really write about….

  2. Thank-you Yair Racheli… the name is not lost on me lol and I wonder if you are also the person that uses the name Mohammad Atta In Hell who has challenged me on previous blogs 🙂

    Spain is a country of diversity and Teresa is part of that diversity. She is affected by the policies of the Spanish government and as a participant in the recent protests has a right to make comment. Teresa discussed the internal grievances felt by the Spanish people, such as cuts, high unemployment and also made reference to the fact that inhabitants of Spain must also hold politicans to account for their foreign policy decisions. You have not commented on the internal problems in Spain at all and choose only to comment on one issue… this paragraph from Teresa…

    “I am a member of the group, Rumbo a Gaza which works in solidarity with Palestine and is part of the international initiative to break the Israeli siege on Gaza. As citizens of the world, we have the right to demand our governments to act democratically in their dealings with countries around the world. International pressure was put on South Africa to end its policy of apartheid, but it was the people who had to make their voices heard before their government took action. The same situation is happening in Palestine. Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people. We are now making demands for domestic policies and we have every right to demand that our government represent us internationally. I am convinced that the vast majority of Spaniards want a foreign policy that promotes diplomacy and peace and not war and oppression.”

    Teresa is highlighting a very important foreign affairs issue that is being taken up by many countries that feel Palestinians have been treated in an appalling way by Israel… Gaza often gets referred to as “the world’s largest open air prison”… President Obama has himself brought the need for changes to the forefront in recent days,

    “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps so that secure and recognised borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contigious state”…

    Teresa has a right to have her voice heard along with many others… and during the recent civil uprisings through the Middle East and Europe, many demonstrators have also referred to the difficulties faced by Palestinians and expressed their solidarity… global support is growing by the day as individuals become more educated. Egypt is an example, demonstrating in support of Palestinians and I understand is to permantly open Rafah crossing with Palestine from next Saturday which is seen by many to be a positive move…

    I am familiar with the 6 day war but again this particular blog focuses mainly on the socio-political situation in Spain…and you haven’t addressed that at all.

    For your information there have been and are ongong shortages of many day to day items which are not in good supply in Gaza… hence the tunnels where desperate people smuggle in basics to help them survive… One shortage was brought to my attention a while back… and that was a lack of plasma products for patients. I consulted with those working closely with Palestinian patients and heard of their struggle trying to care for children in excrutiating pain, born with a bleeding disorder , haemophilia, that were denied access to treatment… and heard of long waits at crossings when people needed certain medical assistance… I have actually covered this topic in a previous article… http://gazafreedommarch.org/cms/en/news/view/10-08-03/Blog_Carol_Grayson_-_Plasma_For_Palestinians.aspx

    Israel has used policies of agression for far too long, and your reply suggests more threats…People are sick and tired of threats…is no way to live and are loking for peaceful solutions. Too many civilian lives have been lost and Israel needs to take a good long look at its actions or it may find itself isolated by a world with increasing awareness of the treatment of Palestinians…

    I ask that if you rely further to this blog you address and focus on the issues with regard to Spain…which was the main point of the piece. I have answered your e-mail but do not feel there is anything further to say on Palestine here… perhaps in a different forum…

  3. @ Yair Yacheli…I thought this might interest you it rather contradicts your information… its about a 10 month old Palestinian baby Ismail Salam in Gaza Strip who needs treatment and can’t get it… I have read so many similar cases… How is this humane allowing a little one to suffer like this… I don’t know know who you are or where you are based but if you are in Israel and if you have any influence please use it to help this child have access to treatment… http://www.paltelegraph.com/palestine/gaza-strip/9253-israel-denies-palestinian-infant-from-medication-outside-gaza.html

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