To learn more about the 15-M movement, euronews spoke to Chema Ruiz.
Beatriz Beiras, euronews: Mr Ruiz, you’re a lawyer helping people having trouble paying for their homes. You give advice to victims or the property bubble in Spain. What do you want the banks to do — and the Spanish authorities — to soften the impact of the drama; so many families have been left without their house and are still in debt?
Chema Ruiz: That’s the way it is, yes. Actually, this morning while I was freezing an eviction I was arrested by the police. I’ve just come here straight from the police station. The demands are very clear and precise. There has to be a moratorium on evictions immediately. We have to stop people being thrown out of their own place, because we’re talking about a million and a half families being affected by evictions. The other thing is we’re asking for a law that makes giving back a property a reimbursement of the debt. This is not the way it is in Spain now. People are thrown out of their house and are then forced to also repay the remaining debt. The third measure we need is to create a subsidised rental housing resource that will guarantee shelter as a human right. The fourth and last measure would be to levy a tax on unoccupied housing in Spain today. There are around three and a half million residences that are empty.
euronews: How would such a tax work?
Ruiz: All the big property owners, who are also speculators, and are therefore responsible for the housing bubble, have to pay a tax if they want these houses to stay empty — houses that families can not get into.
euronews: The 15-M movement has also strongly criticised Spain’s electoral law. The main reproach we hear is that it reduces democratic representation and entrenches bipartisanism. Tell us why, and what you propose.
Ruiz: We are talking about an electoral law that puts the big parties’ interests first, along with the agreements they can make later with peripheral nationalistic parties. To give one example: a small party like the Izquierda Unida (United Left) with a scattered 7.5% of the vote would get eight members into parliament, while the Convergencia i Unio (the centre-right Catalan Nationalists) with 3.5% of the votes in a concentrated area would get 13 seats in parliament. What’s more: the Socialists, by winning four times as many votes as the United Left would get almost eight times as many seats. This is an electoral system that doesn’t represent the essence of democracy at all — of one person one voice — but, on the contrary violates it. Without going into details, the fundamental demand is one single electoral constituency, and that the distribution of seats is truly proportional, respecting the principle of one vote per person and a certain percentage of votes means a certain number of members in parliament.
euronews: Protests like 15-M have spread in other countries in Europe and in the US. What future do you think they have, 15-M especially? Will they continue to oppose things or evolve towards compromise?
Ruiz: I’m convinced that 15-M will manage to get together with other movements, with another series of platforms fighting against unrestricted neo-liberalism that they’re trying to force on us, and together we’ll form a backbone that will defeat the present system.