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Activists block entrances to branches of Spanish bank

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Arab Today, arab today Activists block entrances to branches of Spanish bank

Barcelona - AFP

Anti-eviction activists blocked Wednesday the entrance to 12branches of Spain's Banco Popular bank, which they accuse of not doing enough toprevent struggling mortgage holders from losing their homes.Dozens of demonstrators, many wearing matching green t-shirts, gathered at thedoors of the branches of Spain's fifth-largest bank in the centre of Barcelona,chanting slogans against evictions and preventing clients from entering.The Platform for Mortgage Victims, a grassroots movement campaigning to protectruined homeowners, said it targeted Banco Popular because the lender has shown"very little will" to renegotiate the terms of mortgages held by customers who havehit hard times."It is the bank which has shown the least sensitivity and which systematically deniesoffering viable solutions to families," said a spokeswoman for the movement,Susana Ordonez.The protests will continue until Banco Popular finds a solution for 13 "urgent"cases, she added.Home evictions have become a stark symbol of the economic crisis in Spain sparkedby the explosion in 2008 of a decade-long property bubble, with anti-evictionactivists often rallying outside homes to prevent residents being turned out into thestreet.Last year Spanish courts carried out 67,189 evictions of renters and mortgageholders -- an average of 184 a day.Spanish law allows banks to pursue a defaulting homeowner to pay back the wholeof a mortgage loan even after surrendering the property, if the value of the homehas fallen.The Platform for Mortgage Victims campaigned hard for a law to allow ruinedhomeowners to write off their mortgage debts by surrendering the property, and toguarantee social housing at affordable rent.It handed a petition with 1.4 million signatures to parliament, which put thepopular motion to a debate.A version of the reform was eventually approved by parliament in April 2013, butwith so many modifications that the movement were left disappointed.Despite emerging slowly from recession in mid-2013, Spain's unemployment ratestill tops 26 percent.

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