Suicides Mount as Spain's Economy Crumbles
A 46-year-old man in Alicante, Spain took his own life after he was threatened with eviction. He is the fourth person to commit suicide over eviction in Spain this week. The man was found by police who arrived to evict him after he failed to respond to several phone calls.
On Tuesday a retired couple were also found deceased in their home on the island of Mallorca. The couple's son found their bodies along with a note that said they were going to lose their home.
Earlier in the week a 56-year-old man in Basauri Vizcaya committed suicide because he couldn't pay his mortgage.
This latest strain of suicides has spurred public outrage and demand for reform of current eviction laws. Protesters in Madrid Tuesday evening shouted: “It's not eviction, it's murder!”
Members of parliament agreed to debate a bill to protect homeowners from eviction on Tuesday, and on Wednesday both the governing conservative Popular Party and the opposing Socialists decided to make the bill a top priority, cutting the usual time required to bring legislation to vote in half.
“People who undergo eviction not only lose their homes but get saddled with a large part of the debt, condemned for life to be excluded from credit,” read the petition that spurred the bill. The petition was brought before parliament by the Platform of Those Affected by Mortgages (PAH), a popular campaign for housing rights. According to PAH, hundreds of thousands of people now face eviction due to the housing collapse of 2008. The resulting recession has hit Spain hard, with unemployment currently at a staggering 26 percent. Many homeowners are unable to pay mortgages on homes that are now worth much less than when purchased.
The new bill proposes to change the law by ending evictions and allowing insolvent homeowners to write off their debts by surrendering their homes. Under current legislation, a bank can pursue mortgage holders for the remainder of their loans if the value of the seized property is insufficient.
Protesters outside of parliament held signs reading “Stop finance genocide.” The government has already taken steps to temporarily protect the poorest families from eviction, and in November passed a two-year moratorium on evictions – put campaigners like PAH insist more action be taken.
“Yes we can!” they yelled when the Popular Party announced its backing for the bill. A PAH spokesperson called the parliament's decisions “a victory for citizens.”
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