Mayor robs supermarkets in protest


Emilio Morenatti/PA

A Spanish mayor is causing chaos by staging robberies at supermarkets and giving stolen groceries to the poor in protest at the government's austerity cuts.

Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, regional lawmaker and mayor of the town of Marinaleda near Seville in southern Spain has become a Robin Hood figure and a national celebrity due the outrageous political stunt.

It is reported that Mr Sanchez Gordillo, 59, who has been mayor for 33 years and a member for the regional parliament of Andalusia for the United Left party, did not take part in the raids themselves but stood outside the supermarkets directing his "comrades" over a megaphone.

Seven people have been arrested and despite having political immunity as an elected member of Andalusia's regional parliament, Mr Sanchez Gordillo said he would be happy to renounce it and be arrested himself.

"There are people who don't have enough to eat. In the 21st century, this is an absolute disgrace," he said.

The provocative political figure says he wants to draw attention to the human face of Spain's economic mess, which has seen poverty levels rise by over 15% since 2007, a quarter of workers made jobless and tens of thousands evicted from their homes.

The major political parties have condemned the raids, which come at a time when Spain is grappling with deep austerity cuts and a nationwide unemployment of nearly 25 per cent.

According to Reuters, Alfonso Alonso, spokesman for the ruling People's Party (PP) in the national parliament said: "You can't be Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham. This man is just searching for publicity at the cost of everyone else."

Media coverage of the supermarket stunt has made Mr Sanchez Gordillo a cult hero throughout Spain, particularly in his home province of Andalusia where one worker in three is jobless.

During the lootings last week, trolleys were seen filled with staples such as milk, sugar oil and pasta, before being wheeled out through the check-out without payment.

On Thursday Mr Sanchez Gordillo begins a trek from Jodar, the town with Andalusia's highest unemployment rate, planning to march across the region in blistering summer heat to persuade other local leaders to refuse to comply with government reforms.

According to Reuters, he plans to tell mayors to skip debt payments, stop layoffs, cease home evictions and ignore central government demands for budget cuts. The message is said to anger Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government as it tries to convince investors in Spanish bonds that he can fix the battered economy.

Despite the small size of the town where he has been mayor for 30 years, Sanchez Gordillo has long been a fringe figure on the national stage, known for criticism of the mainstream political parties.

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