Spanish Mayor Leads Store Heists, Gives to Poor

Aug 16, 2012 1:49pm
gty mayor gordillo tk 120816 wblog Spanish Mayor Leads Store Heists, Gives to Poor

                                                           Image credit: Cristina Quicler/AFP/Getty Images

The town of Marinaleda, Spain, has its very own real-life Robin Hood: their mayor, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo. The controversial political figure is gaining both national and international attention for his less-than-conventional message to the government.

You know how the story goes: steal from the rich and give to the poor. That seems to be the inspiration for Sánchez Gordillo’s latest stance against the government and the downward-spiraling Spanish economy.

The controversial Spanish mayor, who is also one of the leaders of the Andalucian Workers’ Syndicate (SAT), decided to take matters into his own hands, urging SAT members to steal from supermarkets. Members raided two grocery stores, loading up their carts with food and leaving without paying. Those goods went straight to charity.

Sánchez Gordillo said the robberies were intended to be more far-reaching than just giving that food to the poor.

“People are losing everything,” Sánchez Gordillo told TIME. “We wanted the authorities to really pay attention to what is happening.”

And while it did gain both national and international attention, seven people were arrested for participating in the two raids.

Sánchez Gordillo has political immunity as an elected member of Andalusia’s regional parliament, so he did not face the same consequences. But according to Reuters, he says he will happily renounce his immunity and be arrested himself.

“We robbed to give to the poor because the rich are already robbing,” Sánchez Gordillo told TIME. “This crisis is a great robbery.”

Sánchez Gordillo hails from one of the hardest-hit areas of Spain, where one in three workers are unemployed.

As the mayor of Marinaleda for almost 30 years, this is not the first time Sánchez Gordillo has taken extreme actions like this one.

In the 1990s, Sánchez Gordillo convinced the government to turn over part of an aristocratic estate and transfer it to the people of Marinaleda, who began a collective farm on the land.

And earlier this year, Sánchez Gordillo and the SAT occupied a military estate in an attempt to force the government to redistribute it to the people.

Sánchez Gordillo, who has become somewhat of a national celebrity, also announced an upcoming three-week march across the province of Andalusia to persuade local leaders to take similar stances against the government.

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