Photo: John Bowling
Photo: Helen Baker
It seemed to go well. We were lucky that the weather was warm and sunny (!). We met up at the top of the main street, the 'Paseo de Almería' and I gave some speech in Spanglish to the assembled protestors (and passers by). The 'carpet-slippers and cocoa' protestors (as one of them said), escorted by the police, then took off down the Obispo Orberá and on down to the offices of the Junta de Andalucía's gauleiter in Almería where speeches from various people with land-grab and other problems were made. I read Helen Prior's speech for her ('...sometimes I think that I would rather have been put against a wall and shot than to have gone through with this') as she was in the office of Luís Caparros (he who ordered the demolition a year ago) together with the leaders of the AULAN and AUAN protest groups and their lawyer.
We were told afterwards that 'progress had been made' (which means little) and that we should have a clearer picture by next week. I'll continue to write this up as I get information.
Meanwhile, here's some press clippings. For forum comments, follow 'the usual links' (as below).
Picture: Luís Caparros. Photo by Chris Marshall
http://almerimarlife.com/almeria-protest-march This is a full article from Chris with photos and video.
Sunday Telegraph Note the last paragraph!!
http://www.elalmeria.es/article/provincia/320262/medio/millar/britanicos/exigen/una/politica/honesta/proceso/regularizacion/sus/viviendas.html (I like this one - where I apparently say that there are 750,000 Brits living in Almería)
La Voz de Almería (a terrible daily for Almería that doesn't have a proper webpage) reveals today (on Page 26) that there are six thousand 'illegal homes' in Almería province and only Luís Caparros and the peace-loving forces of the Junta de Andalucía can sort out this terrible problem. Oh, and by the way, some English came along to the city and protested. 'There will be more demolitions' said a beaming Sr Caparros, 'but just the necessary ones'. The paper ends by quoting me: '...we don't care who pays for these demolitions, the promotor, the town hall or the Junta, but there must be compensation for the owners'.
Estimates vary for the numbers - from 200 to 2000 (thanks Chris). As I said at one point, there were many people who were yesterday with us in spirit, or who had sent emails or forum messages of support. I think that in fact there were tens of thousands of Northern Europeans, together with many almerienses, standing shoulder to shoulder with us on the protest. I also believe that there will now be some positive movement from the authorities within a short period of time.
Meanwhile, Almería is losing its repution and its income. Luís Caparros needs to lose his job.
35 minute video of events at http://www.eyeonspain.com
Joint AUAN and AULAN press release: 11 January 2009
AULAN (Abusos Urbanisticos del Levante Almeriense, No!) and AUAN (Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora, No!) would like to thank the demonstrators for their commitment and support during the 9 January 2009 march in Almeria.
During the protest, Sr Caparros, the regional delegate for housing and planning, held a private meeting with Len and Helen Prior and representatives of the AUAN and AULAN. Sr Caparrós said that he understood and sympathised with the human aspect of the Priors’ situation, but reiterated that “the Junta (regional government) acted correctly within the law and compensation must be sought from the mayor who issued the license”.
He said that it was the courts that had ordered the demolition of the house, not his department, and that he was “forced to work within the framework of the law”.
During the meeting, the representatives of the marchers said that they considered what had happened to Mr & Mrs Prior and their current situation to be a breach of their human rights. Mrs Prior said they were living in their garage and did not even have a bathroom. She said that they had done everything legally and were forced out of their house with no compensation in sight. Mr Prior asked Sr Caparrós how he would have felt if, after he retired and had spent all his money on a house and done everything correctly, that he found himself thrown out of it. Mr Prior also asked why in the area there were other houses recently built and yet his house was the only one knocked down.
Sr Caparrós did agree that after the AULAN and AUAN jointly broker a meeting between the mayor of Vera and Mr & Mrs Prior, he would speak directly to the mayor of Vera to see if a solution could be found.
He also said that although it was the democratic right of people to protest, he was disappointed that the AUAN had not followed up on his offer of a meeting to discuss the issues. Maura Hillen, representing AUAN, said that after the initial meeting back in September, AUAN had indeed attempted to set up a meeting but had received no response. Sr Caparros replied that there had been no point in holding such a meeting at that time given that there was as yet nothing to report.
The representatives of the marchers stated that they reserved the right to stage further marches.
They will also be making the arrangements shortly for the meeting with Felix López, the mayor of Vera, and the Priors.
With respect to the issues of the Almanzora Valley, Sr Caparrós also agreed with Mrs. Hillen to a technical meeting between representatives of the demonstrators and the Junta in Almeria to discuss progress and steps currently being taken and to be taken in the future to resolve the problems created by planning irregularities. Arrangements are to be made next week.
AUAN and AULAN committee members consider these results to be positive given that the demonstrators rate ongoing dialogue, transparency and consultation with affected parties to be of highest priority. They also believe that if the victims of planning and real estate abuse were kept involved, matters would proceed more smoothly.
Mrs Hillen advised Sr Caparros that the AUAN has submitted an allegation to the Human Rights Council (OHCHR-UNOG) based in Geneva highlighting the failure of the Junta de Andalucia to act in a timely manner with respect to the provision of interim services (electricity and water) to homes caught in the illegality trap. This topic is also tabled for discussion at the technical meeting with Junta representatives.
The issue of “land grab” was discussed, when someone who has bought a property in good faith is later required to give up roughly 50% of their land, is not compensated for the land but forced to pay for infrastructure costs. Sr Caparrós stated that this was the law in Spain. It was pointed out to Sr Caparrós, however, that the protesters considered this practice to be against the human rights of homeowners and that the European Parliament had passed a resolution last year stating the same. Sr Caparrós argued that the law was the law, but conceded that an application could be made to his department on an individual case basis for further discussion.
The Decalogue of the protesters’ demands has been forwarded to the Junta.