The battle for Burgos

The battle for Burgos

Plans to redevelop a street in Burgos, Northern Spain at cost of €8m spark an uprising against corruption and police brutality in the Spanish State.

Just over a week ago, if you were thinking of cities in Spain most likely to host the start of a proletarian uprising, Burgos would have come pretty much at the bottom of the list. A sleepy, socially conservative, traditionally ultra-Catholic city in the Northern Castille plain, Burgos was up until now mostly known for its Cathedral and other mediaeval real estate and a local sausage uncannily reminiscent of Clonakilty black pudding. But since the initial clashes between police and protesters in the working class district of Gamonal on the night of Friday 10th January, Burgos has seen nights of continual rioting, a veritable military occupation by riot police, and solidarity demonstrations this week around 46 cities in Spain, including two successive nights of demos in the capital Madrid, resulting in clashes with the police, arrests and injuries. All this supposedly over a plan to redevelop the main road through Gamonal into a tree-lined Boulevard.

Burgos may be, at first sight, an unlikely flashpoint for a Spanish-state wide uprising, but the long-standing problems underlying the local conflict have resonances with similar problems all over the country. The story behind the proposed development in Gamonal reveals a decades long problem of local shenanigans between corrupt developers and bought and paid for local politicians, that have ridden roughshod over the needs of urban residents and workers to the financial benefit of a tight inner circle and at the expense of local social services and laying waste to urban public space.

Burgos, despite being a relatively small, population 200,000, backwater with no major local industry and no exceptional business or finance sectors, lies only behind Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastian in most expensive property values of provincial capitals. The reason behind the mystery of these disproportionately high prices is explained by Spanish journalist Ignacio Escolar of El Diario, himself a native of Burgos forced, like so many other young burgalés, to leave in search of work. Escolar plants the blame firmly at the door of the corrupt link between local politicians and ganster developers, and in particular one Antonio Miguel Mendéz Pozo, universally known as Michel Pozo Mendéz or just "El Jefe" (The Boss). Mendéz Pozo has, through a system of backhanders and patronage, been the effective boss of local politicians, including the present Mayor of Burgos, Javier Macalle of the governing ex-Francoist Partido Popular (PP). In a corruption case in the early 1990's, Mendéz Pozo's links to the José-Maria Azñar the then PP leader and a previous prime minister, were revealed along with a sordid mass of backhanders to local politicians that resulted in the jailing of the then Mayor of Burgos and a 7 year sentence for El Jefe himself. Such legal niceities proved to have little chance of cramping the Mendéz Pozo style, as he was quickly released after only 9 months of his sentence and got straight back to work controlling the Burgos construction. The results of this decades long scamming is swinging rents imposed on the residents of the city and a bankrupt municipality that has squandered millions on hubristic construction projects of no benefit to anyone other than lining the pockets of El Jefe's inner circle.

The project to transform the main street in Gamonal, Carrer Vittoria, into a boulevard reduces a 4-lane thorougfare, with on-street parking vital to the local residents (the neighbours have a cooperative system of leaving their cars parked with the handbrake off, to allow shuffling spaces, for e.g.) and it's replacement with a two-lane tree-lined boulevard and underground parking charging exorbitant fees. All of which projected to cost €8 million, this in a city whose municipality is officially bankrupt and closing down nurseries, creches and other vital social services.

Gamonal was originally a village outside of Burgos that, like l'Hospitalet in Barca, became incorporated into the city by urban sprawl. It remains a stubbornly working class district in an otherwise fairly bourgeois city, with a proud tradition of local organising and community spirit. Naturally the residents were disgusted by yet another Mendéz Pozo scam, rubber-stamped by his creature, the current Mayor, that was going to cause such disruption to their neighbourhood and with such a cost to local residents, already under economic seige by the current economic and employment crisis and extortionate rents, mortgage arrears and disappearing services. A local campaign against the project has been underway for several years, but the decision by the city authorities to send in brutal riot police to break up a local neighbourhood demonstration on Friday the 10th proved the final straw.

As we have seen so many times recently, amongst them Gezi park in Istanbul last year, the decision by civic authorities to used brutal policing to crush urban dissent to corrupt developments, had the opposite effect of sparking a backlash of fury, both amongst Gamonal residents and other burgalés sick of the tyranny of EL Jefe and his minions.

The initial resistance to the police attack on the night of the 10th led to 11 arrests and multiple injuries. Five nights of rioting ensued and the local muncipality have drafted in riot police from the surrounding country to effect a military-style swamping occupation of the neighbourhood. The struggles in Burgos awoke the sympathies of working class and poor urban dwellers across the Spanish state, many of whom are subject to similar yokes of semi-feudal oppression under corrupt political elites and their gangster-developer funders. Hence the national resonance of the Battle for Burgos and the demonstrations in 46 different Spanish cities this Wednesday gone.

Demostrators across the country are supporting the demands of the Gamonal residents - for all those arrested for resisting police attacks to be released immediately, for the scandalous Vittoria boulevard project to be cancelled, and for the resignation of the Mayor of Burgos, Javier Macalle.

The bankruptcy of the local municipalities in Spain has long been seen as the un-recognised insolvency crises of the state by Eurozone crisis watchers. It's entaglement with the decades of local corruption that have strangled the Spanish state since the post-Franco transition devolved elements of financial power to the regions and municipalities of the state, means that this financial crisis is also at the same time a political and social crisis.

As so often recently, the coverage of the latest uprising in Spain has been next to non-existent in the Irish media. We encourage all our readers to use the ability of the internet and social media to bypass this defacto censorship and follow the developments in this struggle in the next days and weeks.

Finally we include the statement of the local assembly of Gamonal on the current events. We apologise for the poor quality of the translation.

What happened during these five days of riots, can not be explained as nonsense or lies of the press and institutions such as city hall, if not reality and home truths.

What started as a local protest against the proposed implementation of a boulevard street in Vitoria gamonal, work imposed from a totalitarian stance which neighbors who for months have refused in numerous protests and demonstrations, has become an expression of discontent widespread.

We will not detail the niceties of this project, simply with minimal rationality, another attempt is evident, in this as in other cities, to keep the speculation and promoting the widespread corruption of the political class, increasing even more the benefits of the ruling classes against the people.

In this case, against a working class neighbourhood, drowned in bills, taxes, fines, unpaid mortgages, foreclosures and an unemployment figure that reaches 18,000 people. So far nothing different than what is happening at the state level, following the famous crisis in which social differences have been abysmal.

So what happened during these days is not only the rejection of an entire people to a speculation project, which will cost in the neighborhood parking problems, traffic and 8 million euros, of which no neighbor will benefit, only the years to condemn generations to defray monumental works and fatten the healthy accounts of corrupt politicians and businessmen.

The rejection means much more, it is the expression of collective anger, anger in young people see no future in these conditions, seniors who sadly have realized that all alleged rights both sweat and blood have hard-won, in less than 6 years have gone to hell, and especially the arrogance and intolerance of power that dominates and imposes, without listening to anything or anyone.

They make the laws, democracy shielding to preserve their privileges, and the reality is that if Friday's incident had not happened, no one would have ever heard us.

The social peace has been shattered by them and not by violent hooded youth as some would have us believe, in the neighborhood we all know what happens, we are united, we are not afraid to show our faces.

The real violence is, to fill the city with police, if you can call them by that name, rather than mercenaries, who are beating our children and neighbors and arresting 47 people, causing power outages and telephone in some homes, raids and indiscriminate strip searches. launched Saturday over thirty rubber bullets seriously injuring neighbors, of which only one has been mentioned, only incoming attacks by security forces when violence and the situation is disproportionate.

In turn, the repressive apparatus of the state has not hesitated to apply exemplary sentences to those showing any kind of disagreement, the draft [?] public safety law presented by the government recently gives a good account of the intentions of the state, that calls itself democratic, but the truth is that if this is democracy, we do not want it.

In his name all kinds of atrocities are justified, including the two young men of the neighborhood, not street fighters or outsiders as some continue to hold, sent yesterday to preventive detention.

The struggle must continue and the uprisings spread to other cities in the state and why not, the rest of the world. The discontent of these days is not only the works of the boulevard, here are many more reasons, the fight is for a decent life for our rights and preserve and give meaning to the word FREEDOM.

Comunicado de la asamblea vecinal de Gamonal (14 de enero)

Originally posted on Anarkismo.

Posted By

ocelot
Jan 16 2014 12:47

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ocelot
Jan 16 2014 15:43

I can't find anything about this in BBC/Guardian/RTÉ/Irish Times..

Looks like there's been rioting all week in Burgos, Northern Spain. FT is reporting that a solidarity demo in Madrid kicked off against the cops last night. I've a couple of coms in Burgos, I'll reach out to them to see what the story is, but in the meanwhile if anybody else in the vicinity has news, please add here, cos mainstream Brit & Irish press is not covering this at all.

Quote:
Until four days ago, the town of Burgos in northern Spain was best known for a kind of blood sausage made with rice.

But on Friday it made the headlines for something even less palatable—a protest by a neighborhood association against the building of a new avenue through the heart of Gamonal (one of its most traditionally working class districts) that descended into violence. Roadworks were dug up and used as projectiles, bank windows were smashed in, and heated battles were fought between the tracksuit-clad protesters and riot police drafted in from nearby Valladolid.

The first day of rioting resulted in 19 arrests and a handful of stories in the press. What no one expected was that the riots would continue for the next three days, turning the center of the city into a no-go zone and prompting journalists who should really know better to throw the words "Homs" and "Aleppo" around like hyperbolic grenades.

As the protests have continued the tone of the reports has changed. The first dispatches focused on cataloging the arrests and acts of vandalism, but as the protests have gone on the media’s initial incredulity at the possibility that people anywhere could get so pissed off over a road is gradually being replaced by an understanding that that’s exactly what's happening. And the playing out of local concerns on a national stage is not something to be sniffed at.

http://www.vice.com/read/the-violent-protests-in-burgos-could-pose-a-ser...

Quote:
A demonstration in Madrid in sympathy with a week of protests in the northern Spanish city of Burgos over a multimillion-euro local government project turned violent on Wednesday night, leaving 11 people injured while 11 were arrested.

The violence erupted after police blocked hundreds from marching to the ruling conservative People’s party headquarters. Rioters threw smoke bombs, chairs from restaurant terraces and burnt rubbish bins.

Five police officers were among the injured.

The protest was one of 46 across Spain to show sympathy with residents of Burgos, who have been demonstrating in their thousands against a local government proposal to spend a reported €8m on converting the city-centre Vitoria street in the Gamonal district from four lanes into a two-lane tree-lined boulevard. The project, which was authorised with little public consultation, involves scrapping 300 free parking spaces and moving them underground, where people would have to pay to park.
[...]

FT: Violence erupts at Madrid protest (paywalled)

A las barricadas: Bulevar vs Gamonal, Cronica de un conflicto anunciado (spanish)

ocelot
Jan 16 2014 16:50

400x

Comunicado de la asamblea vecinal de Gamonal (14 de enero)

[google trans + bodge]

Quote:
What happened during these five days of riots, can not be explained as nonsense or lies of the press and institutions such as city hall, if not reality and home truths.
What started as a local protest against the proposed implementation of a boulevard street in Vitoria gamonal, work imposed from a totalitarian stance which neighbors who for months have refused in numerous protests and demonstrations, has become an expression of discontent widespread.

We will not detail the niceties of this project, simply with minimal rationality, another attempt is evident, in this as in other cities, to keep the speculation and promoting the widespread corruption of the political class, increasing even more the benefits of the ruling classes against the people.

In this case, against a working class neighbourhood, drowned in bills, taxes, fines, unpaid mortgages, foreclosures and an unemployment figure that reaches 18,000 people. So far nothing different than what is happening at the state level, following the famous crisis in which social differences have been abysmal.

So what happened during these days is not only the rejection of an entire people to a speculation project, which will cost in the neighborhood parking problems, traffic and 8 million euros, of which no neighbor will benefit, only the years to condemn generations to defray monumental works and fatten the healthy accounts of corrupt politicians and businessmen.

The rejection means much more, it is the expression of collective anger, anger in young people see no future in these conditions, seniors who sadly have realized that all alleged rights both sweat and blood have hard-won, in less than 6 years have gone to hell, and especially the arrogance and intolerance of power that dominates and imposes, without listening to anything or anyone.

They make the laws, democracy shielding to preserve their privileges, and the reality is that if Friday's incident had not happened, no one would have ever heard us.

The social peace has been shattered by them and not by violent hooded youth as some would have us believe, in the neighborhood we all know what happens, we are united, we are not afraid to show our faces.

The violence is, to fill the city with police, if you can call them by that name, rather than mercenaries, who are beating our children and neighbors and arresting 47 people, causing power outages and telephone in some homes, raids and indiscriminate strip searches. launched Saturday over thirty rubber bullets seriously injuring neighbors, of which only one has been mentioned, only incoming attacks by security forces when violence and the situation is disproportionate.

In turn, the repressive apparatus of the state has not hesitated to apply exemplary sentences to those showing any kind of disagreement, the draft [?] public safety law presented by the government recently gives a good account of the intentions of the state, that calls itself democratic, but the truth is that if this is democracy, we do not want it.

In his name all kinds of atrocities are justified, including the two young men of the neighborhood, not street fighters or outsiders as some continue to hold, sent yesterday to preventive detention.

The struggle must continue and the uprisings spread to other cities in the state and why not, the rest of the world. The discontent of these days is not only the works of the boulevard, here are many more reasons, the fight is for a decent life for our rights and preserve and give meaning to the word FREEDOM.

(emphasis in original)

ocelot
Jan 17 2014 13:32

reply to my request for info from a comrade in Burgos:

Hi [ocelot],

there is a libertarian river flowing under the city ... [in response to my email's opening quip "I thought you said nothing ever happened in Burgos?"]

I give you two links to very good information about the origin of the conflict,

the periodist was born in Burgos and he knows the 'secret' history of the business men in Burgos

The first one its a complete analisis of the situation

http://www.eldiario.es/escolar/pasando-Burgos_6_217738233.html

This other is an explanation about how the council give the works to the constructor

http://www.eldiario.es/escolar/Exclusiva-adjudico-obra-bulevar-Gamonal_6...

may be this is very thecnic

Some friends from CGT are involved in the citizen movilization, making assemblies, preparing the direct action, looking for money for the prisioners, ...

Salud,

ocelot
Jan 17 2014 15:38

Another com in Burgos found this english-lang blog:

http://www.davidjackson.info/2014/why-are-they-rioting-in-burgos.htm

Quote:
Jan 13

You may have seen that the northern city of Burgos is entering its fourth of riots. On Saturday alone, 41 people were arrested and 21 hospitalised, including several police.

The fuss is supposedly over the remodelling of a main street in the city, but it runs deeper than that.

You see, on the one hand we have the local residents, who don’t want the current plans. It reduces the capacity of the street by half – which residents think will cause traffic problems. It gets rid of 300 free parking places, and replaces them with a paid for underground car park. And, of course, it’s 18 months of roadworks and digging.

Alternate proposals put forwards by neighbourhood associations have, in the main, been rejected out of hand.

And on a bigger scale, across the town, the citizens are asking why the townhall is spending 8 million euros on this when at the same time they are scaling back rubbish collection and closing schools and OAP day centres due to cash problems.

Burgos is a town which is heavily in debt, and has seen sweeping cuts in social programmes to try to avoid bankruptcy. Spending eight million euros -most of it borrowed, thus inflating the debt- on what is basically a “facelift” is not only seen as bad management, but has lead to whispers of corruption and back handers.

Indeed, Burgos owes the banks 135 million euros and can’t even keep up on the repayments. And the tender for the construction has gone to a notorious builder called Antonio Miguel Méndez Pozo who has spent several spells in jail for corruption and illegal building – in the 90′s he was sentenced to 7 years after a series of building permits were found to have been faked (reduced to just one year on appeal, but hey).

But the problems run even deeper than that. In a society where half of the under-25′s are unemployed, where overall one in three can’t find a job because there aren’t any, where the rich seem to get richer and corruption is daily in the press, this project just seems to have caused the citizens of the city to explode.

And the declaration from the Mayor, Javier Lacalle (PP), over the weekend that he was going to ignore the protests, and if necessary carry out the works with police protection, were the final spark which lit the bonfire.

Sunday morning saw 3,000 people in the main square on a peaceful demonstration to ask the Mayor to reconsider. Sunday evening saw hundreds participating in running battles with the police throughout the area.
And today Burgos is swamped with extra police, in an attempt to stop the protests.

To be honest, it’s because the mindset of the ruling Spanish is positive feudal at times. And the idea of actually sitting down with the residents to discuss plans, just isn’t something They want to encourage.

Very reminiscent of the proposed Gezi park redevelopment.

hellfrozeover
Jan 17 2014 18:33

If people have time to translate, try these 2 from Periodico Diagonal:
https://www.diagonalperiodico.net/global/21375-cronica-conflicto-anuncia...
http://www.diagonalperiodico.net/global/21473-pp-burgos-decide-continuar...

The first is from the 12th, when things had been going on a while, the 2nd just from today. Basically, PP govt says not backing down.

Dannny
Jan 18 2014 15:37

http://politica.elpais.com/politica/2014/01/17/actualidad/1389949420_110...
The mayor has declared that the works will de definitvely suspended. This is being celebrated as a victory but protests are set to continue calling for the mayor's resignation, freedom for those arrested and that the riot police get out of the city. There were demonstrations throughout Spain in solidarity with the Burgos suburb of Gamonal yesterday, some great photos here: http://politica.elpais.com/politica/2014/01/17/album/1389998153_067546.h...
A police station was attacked in Barcelona:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tj6i7AU7lu8#t=41

ocelot
Jan 18 2014 17:53
bastarx
Jan 19 2014 05:27
hellfrozeover
Jan 25 2014 17:36
hellfrozeover
Feb 22 2014 16:42

And a summary / feature story summing the whole thing up now in English:
https://www.diagonalperiodico.net/blogs/english/local-resistance-wins-th...
...might be worth lifting for the library.