In Argentina, escraches were people who organized demonstrations outside the homes of people associated with the dictatorship. In Spain, this term has been borrowed by the Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH), to apply pressure in favour of a Popular Legislative Initiative on evictions, with some protests being held outside the homes of the leaders of the ruling Popular Party.
The Interior Ministry has instructed the police to identify participants in these protests, which the spokesman of the Unified Police Union (SUP), José María Benito, describe as “barbaric”. It considers that this situation leaves officers ‘exposed’ and threatens legal certainty.
The Ministry of State Security has issued police stations with an order that they identify or apprehend those involved in acts of “harassment of members of political parties, venues party, etc”, and arrest if necessary.
The ministry will also ensure police protection for those politicians who denounce the escraches.
“Protecting threatened politicians or any other citizen, yes, but identifying people who have not committed a violation of the law, and propose arrests is outrageous,” the police union spokesman said.
He recalled that the mission of the security forces of the State is to protect any person who feels threatened, whether political or otherwise, and prevent criminal acts against them.
However, Benito believes the Interior ministry instruction is “twisting” the Public Safety Act because “if you are not committing any crime or any administrative offence, identifying citizens and proposing sanctions makes for a tortuous reading” of that legislation .
A reading that, warned José María Benito, can lead to a mass of identifications “without any legal coverage,” which, in his view, could put at “risk” the policemen’s legal certainty.
Meanwhile, Ada Colau, spokeswoman for PAH, lamented that the police were sent against people in a hopeless situation and not against the corrupt.
“There are very serious cases of corruption, bullying and harassment by financial institutions against the most vulnerable and never have the police been sent to identify them and make arrests,” she said in a radio interview.
Prime minister Mariano Rajoy has described the protests as “undemocratic” and the central government delegate in Madrid, Cristina Fuentes, has said that PAH harbored sympathy for terrorist group ETA. Legal and charitable entities, including human rights groups in Catalonia and the Barcelona College of Lawyers, attacked Fuentes, whose opinion, they said, constitutes “a frivolous and dangerous attitude.”
On Tuesday the government presented its amendments to the Popular Legislative Initiative, which reached the lower chamber on a wave of public support that included 1.5 million signatures.
The Popular Party is refusing to back the aspect of the popular legislative initiative relating to the concept of dation in payment, whereby a homeowner unable to meet mortgage payments can cancel the debt with the bank by handing over the keys.
Colau said. “The Popular Party has caved in to the bullying of the banks.” The government, she added, has destroyed the spirit of the bill by quashing its main objectives.