Spain Recoils as Its Hungry Forage Trash Bins for a Next Meal

On a recent evening, hip-looking young woman was sorting through a stack of crates outside fruit and vegetable store here in working-class neighborhood of Vallecas as it shut down for the night. At first glance, she looked as if she might be a store employee. But no. The young woman was looking through day’s trash for her next meal. Already, she had found a dozen aging potatoes she deemed edible and loaded them onto a luggage cart parked nearby. “When you don’t have enough money,” she said, declining to give her name, “this is what there is.” The woman, 33, said she had once worked at the post office but that her unemployment benefits had run out and she was living now on 400 euros a month, about $520. She was squatting with some friends in a building that still had water and electricity, while collecting “a little of everything” from garbage after stores closed and the streets were dark and quiet. Such survival tactics are becoming increasingly commonplace here, with an unemployment rate over 50% among young people and more and more households having adults without jobs. So pervasive is the problem of scavenging that one Spanish city has resorted to installing locks on supermarket trash bins as a public health precaution. A report this year by a Catholic charity, Caritas, said it had fed nearly one million hungry Spaniards in 2010, more than twice as many as in 2007. That number rose again in 2011 by 65,000. As Spain tries desperately to meet its budget targets, it has been forced to embark on the same path as Greece, introducing one austerity measure after another, cutting jobs, salaries, pensions and benefits, even as the economy continues to shrink. Most recently, government raised the value-added tax three percentage points, to 21%, on most goods, and two percentage points on many food items, making life just that much harder for those on edge. Little relief is in sight as the country’s regional governments, facing their own budget crisis, are chipping away at a range of previously free services, including school lunches for low-income families. For a growing number, the food in garbage bins helps make ends meet. At huge wholesale fruit and vegetable market on the outskirts of this city recently, workers bustled, loading crates onto trucks. But in virtually every bay, there were men and women furtively collecting items had rolled into the gutter. “It’s against the dignity of these people to have to look for food in this manner,” said Eduardo Berloso, official in Girona, the city that padlocked its supermarket trash bins. Mr. Berloso proposed the measure last month after hearing from social workers and seeing for himself one evening “the humiliating gesture of a mother with children looking around before digging into the bins” (…..)

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/world/europe/hunger-on-the-rise-in-spain.html

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Consultor Internacional

8 Responses to Spain Recoils as Its Hungry Forage Trash Bins for a Next Meal

  1. (NYT GOLDEN PICK) Professor Uziel Nogueira says: The return of widespread poverty in Spain and Greece is more than a result of an economic recession. The common currency works as a catalyst to deepen the worst economic downturn in decades. For the Southern European economies, the euro zone became a sort of a tale of two decades. It was the best of times in the 90s, it was the worst of times in 2012. In the 90s, the cheap credit led the public sector to a spending binge and a false sense of prosperity. Today, is time to pay a costly bill and live on austerity for years to come. The euro was a monetary TRICK played on a population eager for a welfare state.


    It is the biggest failure of Europe’s economic integration and post war political leadership. Germany’s elite deceived the German people by allowing structurally weak economies to share a strong common currency without a fiscal union. In turn, the political leadership of Greece, Portugal and Spain sold the euro as cost free way out of poverty and into a welfare state only existent in the Northern rich countries.

    There are two lessons to be learned from the current woes of the euro zone. First, a common currency is NOT a short cut to economic growth and prosperity. Second, in economic integration there is no such thing as a free lunch. Particularly when politicians deceive the population in thinking that the rich guy, aka Germany, will always pay the bill. As we say in Spanish: hay que vivir con lo vuestro.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/world/europe/hunger-on-the-rise-in-spain.html

  2. (…..) According to Tony Barber, the Financial Times’ European editor, the economic challenges facing Spain “mask a more profound crisis of the Spanish state, a crisis that demands a substantial overhaul of the structures established during the post-Franco transition to democracy in the late 1970s.” “Spain’s national drama is not just about banks and bond yields; it is political, institutional and regional,” he wrote. Mr. Barber identified a gulf between politicians and society dating from the early post-Franco years when the founding fathers of modern Spanish democracy were determined to foster strong political parties. “They guaranteed the parties various privileges, including access to public funds, and devised the electoral system that minimizes voters’ influence over party leaderships.” Jonathan Blitzer wrote in a recent Latitude post that the Spanish economic crisis had “magnified longstanding exasperation among the residents of Barcelona and the [Catalan] region, who feel that the national government routinely belittles their identity.” “The percentage of Catalans supporting independence has doubled, to 46 percent, since 2008,” Jonathan wrote. Referring to the regional president, he wrote: “But Mas should be more careful not to overdraw popular expectations. Catalonia is in a difficult financial position, and despite the ebullience of popular demonstrations, he is in no position to call the shots.” Concerns about the political fallout from the economic crisis were sufficient to prompt a rare intervention by King Juan Carlos who called for national unity in an open letter last week. “We will only overcome our present difficulties by acting together, walking in step, speaking with one voice and pulling together,” he wrote. In a visit to Barcelona on Tuesday, he reinforced the message for the benefit of the Catalans. At an awards ceremony, also attended by Mr. Mas, he said the present situation demanded that everyone show good sense. He said he looked to the genius and goodwill of the people of Catalonia, Spain and Europe to overcome the gravity of the present crisis.

    http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/26/in-spain-its-not-just-the-economy/

  3. Juan Reyes: Spain have trouble in all the years of his very long history, and his most important problems forever were catalonia and the Vasco country.The Spanish have always prevailed. Do not worry about us, we will move forward as usual. Most are quiet and work and these guys are a minority who are angry, rightly, by unemployment and cuts, but do not represent the general feeling of collaboration with the government to lift our nation from the quagmire. Thanks for your interest.

    http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/26/in-spain-its-not-just-the-economy/

  4. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: I do agree with the comment by Juan Reyes above. NO, the “Spanish Republic” is not in danger of a break up due to Catalonia’s separatist movement and the current economic crisis. Now, a ‘casus belli ‘ – the horror- will certainly ensue IF the government of Mariano Rajoy demands Barcelona football club to be relocated to Madrid, for example.

    http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/26/in-spain-its-not-just-the-economy/

  5. (…..) Vivimos en un estado en descomposición, sin fe en su democracia parlamentaria y con dudas sobre la unidad que consagra el artículo 2 de la Constitución y sobre la validez en todo el territorio español del principio de legalidad. Se equivoca, por tanto, el gallego si sigue pensando que el problema principal del país es financiero. O solo financiero. Nada más lejos de la realidad. Es de mucho más calado. Y su solución exige visión, determinación y acción, sentido de trascendencia histórica y del papel que está llamado a ejercer. Remodelación del sistema de representación y construcción de un proyecto colectivo que sume y no reste, que una y no divida. Con tres años de gestión por delante, aún no está todo perdido. Solo queda saber si está dispuesto a inmolarse o no. Pues va a ser que…

    http://www.cotizalia.com/opinion/valor-anadido/2012/09/27/espana-un-estado-en-descomposicion-7481/

  6. Sergi: Uziel, Spain is not a republic, it’s a monarchy. And yes, it is in danger of a breakup. Years and years of false promises have finally turned to light. I agree with the article, it’s not just the economy. In the sense that it is not just the economy that is pushing Catalonia to choose it’s own future. It’s all the years of underfunding, all very democratic. It’s not allowing the laws they make come into effect (remember the “Estatut” in 2010?). It’s not considering Catalan culture and heritage as something positive rather than negative. President Artur Mas (the 129th Catalan President since 1359, and yes, that is more than 650 years of history), said when he declared elections will take place in november that Spanish heritage was a plus for Catalonia, and that is the way Catalans feel. It’s a lot of things that can’t be said in 1500 characters, that have made people who were once as much Spanish as Catalan feel that they are not Spanish any more. And this means that more than half the population only feels Catalan right now and would now only vote for independence, against only 20% who would want things to remain the same. The rest would want reforms (which Mariano Rajoy said recently would not happen). It will be interesting to see where the rest of the people will go. I, for one, vote for independence to end this once and for all. To make things short, the economy is the trigger, but there are much deeper underlying problems in the Catalonia-Spain relationship.

    http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/26/in-spain-its-not-just-the-economy/

  7. With Spain mired in an economic slump, many Spaniards are questioning their king, long revered for his role in bringing democracy to the nation but now being scrutinized for his deluxe lifestyle and opaque fortune. An accident this spring, when the king broke his hip while elephant hunting in Botswana, exposed a rarefied world of business contacts and set off an unusual public outcry over why the Spanish monarch, Juan Carlos I, was off on a pricey African safari during a time of national hardship. The episode led to an unusual royal apology, but the collateral damage has left the king, 74, recalibrating his monarchy. He has stepped up his public appearances, embracing his role as an international business booster and conciliator amid rising fury over government-imposed austerity measures intended to help shore up confidence in the country’s finances. “The monarchy will continue as long as the people want a monarchy,” the king said on a swing through New York last week, part of a palace strategy to meet with top opinion makers to help promote confidence in Spain. Europe’s economic crisis has politicians and struggling taxpayers from Belgium to England openly weighing the costs of subsidizing royals. Unlike other European monarchs, Juan Carlos came to the throne after the death of the dictator Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975 with virtually nothing, and has worked hard to generate his own fortune beyond the annual 8.3 million euro budget (or $10.7 million) bestowed on the palace by the Spanish government. The king is widely valued in business circles for acting as a sometime deal maker and economic ambassador for his nation, but how he has amassed his substantial personal wealth remains secret. The Spanish royal family’s wealth has been estimated at up to 1.79 billion euros (or $2.3 billion), a sum that supporters contend was inflated by the inclusion of government properties (…..)

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/29/world/europe/juan-carlos-i-seeks-redemption-for-spain-and-monarchy.html

  8. Millions of Spaniards took advantage of cheap financing to buy new houses during Spain’s decade-long economic boom and housing bubble beginning in the late 1990s. The country’s fishermen, many encouraged by European Union subsidies, did much the same for their own homes away from home: new boats. Since then, they have run into problems: declining fish stocks, tighter quotas on catches, rising operating costs and a sharp economic downturn that has slashed both fish prices and demand. The impact has devastated much of Spain’s coastal economy. It has also generated intensifying criticism of European Union policies that, environmental groups and experts say, have increased fishing communities’ dependency on subsidies to make up for the decline in both revenues and fish populations, even as the bloc continues to pay generous subsidies to scrap older vessels to upgrade Europe’s fleet. The new boats are typically bigger and more powerful, adding pressure on declining fish populations. Coastal regions, they warn, are in the grip of a vicious downward spiral, with steep economic and environmental costs that they are urging leaders to halt. “Spain has been one of the worst examples of using public money to modernize and increase the capacity of the fleet,” said Saskia Richartz of Greenpeace in Brussels, the group’s European Union oceans policy director. “We have now reached a crisis point, with a generation of fishermen whose boats are owned by banks and who have no fish to catch.” In coastal areas like Sanlúcar de Barrameda, a town in the south near Cádiz, as fishermen struggle to repay the mortgages on their vessels, many say they resent that bloc policies distorted their financial incentives and then left them high and dry once Spain’s economic crisis hit. The European Union stopped directly financing boat purchases in 2005 to curtail the size of Europe’s fleet, but for many here the damage was already done. José Antonio Díaz León, the president of the fish market of Sanlúcar, home to about 100 fishing boats, estimated that “95 percent of the owners here have a mortgage on their boat, which many simply can no longer afford” (…..)

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/world/europe/bound-to-sea-but-buried-in-debt-spains-fishermen-blame-blocs-policies.html

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