The vast grounds of a palace in Cordoba owned by a cousin of King Juan Carlos were occupied Tuesday by agricultural workers led by the radical left major Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo.
The occupation, a planned stop in a protest march over sky high unemployment, dire working conditions and cuts made by the central and regional governments, saw members of the farm laborers’ union SAT make a proclamation against ‘latifundism’, the traditional system of land ownership by absentee landlords described as a ‘real cancer that impedes progress of Andalusia.’
Assembled in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles-Moratalla, in Hornachuelos, Córdoba, owned by the Duke of Segovia and his wife Maria da Gloria of Orleans-Braganza, the workers read out a statement demanding the occupation and cultivation of state lands.
The palace had recently been renovated but the contractors had not paid workers, had broken labour contracts and had ‘exploited immigrants,’ added to the union.
Last week hundreds agricultural workers began the first of a series of long marches across Andalusia.
Among the direct actions taken by SAT members have been Robin Hood-style looting of supermarkets which had led to a number of arrests.
‘We want a special plan for employment in the fields, the turning over of public farms that are not being used, and a basic income for the 350,000 families in Andalusia who don’t have any type of financial protection,’ said Sánchez Gordillo, who was one of the instigators of the supermarket raids.
The farm labourers are also calling on the government to stop evicting families who have been squatting on empty state-owned plots. Some of the “squatter” families, including children, are taking part in the marches.
SAT wants to ‘unite the struggles of the countryside and the city’ by the marches, and accuses the goverment of repressing and criminalising trade unions.
Rejecting the payment of the public debt, which represents a ‘socializing of private losses’, SAT demands ‘the repeal of all cuts, the banning of evictions and layoffs, the distribution of wealth and work, and the raising the minimum wage to a thousand euros.’