Spain’s Lost Generation on Hunger Strike (Video)
Under his hoodie, 25 year-old engineer Jorge Arzuaga looks like any young man who is ready to go to a soccer match in Madrid, Spain. Against the backdrop of Puerta del Sol Square, bustling with tourist activity in this cool October evening, Jorge’s mission is not one of temporary entertainment but permanent change.
Jorge declared a hunger strike on October 12, 2013 to go about that change, demanding the resignation of a government which he calls corrupt and illegitimate. Jorge recently finished college with an engineering degree, and promptly joined the ranks of millions of new graduates who are not able to find jobs amid a record-high 56.1% unemployment rate for youths in the country.
The Guardian reports that although the government claims the worst has passed and employment reforms will encourage firms to hire, Spain still has the highest unemployment among adult males in the Eurozone – at 25.3% – than even Greece. The number of young Spaniards belonging to what has become known as the ‘lost generation’ is up 2% since June to 883,000. Only Greece has a higher percentage of young people out of work, at 62.9%.
A banner, in the middle of the circle where Jorge’s supporters and four other hunger strikers sit, reads “Jorge’s reasons: Who am I? A citizen. What do I do? Hunger strike. What for? For you, for me: unemployment, corruption, evictions, social health, education…Which one is yours?”
Again and again, government corruption is mentioned as the main problem and the focus of the protestors. It is almost impossible to keep track of the number of open investigations into financial and political corruption. From nepotism charges to the use of public money for private gain at both the national and regional levels, at least 130 politicians are facing charges of corruption. According to Jorge, the current government also rigged the country’s electoral system to win the last election, thereby making it illegitimate.
Jorge is one of the original Indignados (Indignants Movement) who occupied the Puerto del Sol on May 15, 2011, demanding more democracy, a new electoral law and an end to political corruption. They are also known as the 15-M movement because the protest was launched on the 15th of May, one week before local elections. Over 20,000 people marched that day in Madrid alone, asking for all banks to be nationalized, holding banners with the motto: “We are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers”, referring to the government bailout of the banks with public money while cutting vital social programs, education, healthcare and other essential public services.
The Indignados are not affiliated with any political party in the country, carefully avoiding ideological agendas, unions and professional politicians. However, there is an emerging party – Partido X – associated with the movement. Spaniards, fed up with the two-party hegemony of their country for the last 30 years, are demanding an end to the cycle of the People’s party (PP) and the Spanish Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE) trading turns in leading the nation. Currently in place Mariano Rajoy government of the People’s Party (PP) which was elected on November 20, 2011, and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of PSOE was the predecessor.
On October 8th, Partido X made its first public appearance to announce its formation with a press conference and a presentation in a cultural centre in Madrid and the event was relayed to other cities around Spain. Partido X insists that it does not belong either to the left or the right as spokesperson Simona Levi explained via their slogan in the presentation: “Democracy, full stop which is a group of rules with which we can really control what a politician does, starting with a transparency law, which we don’t have in Spain, and ending with [regular] referenda, which are almost non-existent in Spain.”
Levi added that the party was still in the process of drawing up its program: “In all elections from now on, the voice of the people will be heard. We are working on our policies, listening to our supporters, and then we will find the right people to stand.”
So far, Spain’s government has not made any public statement regarding the 5 hunger strikers and their designated purpose, which is, to demand resignation. Jorge told me that the government sends medical personnel every week to draw blood from him and the other 4 protestors to monitor their health. He also said that their ultimate goal is to not only change the system in Spain but to also bring about change globally to, in his words “live in a better world.” He added “little by little, we are changing our consciousness, and I am very happy about the reaction we are receiving. We know what is happening and we do not have to accept it. It is time to stand up. We are the people and the power belongs to people.”
Photo Credit: Juan Santiso Iglesias : https://www.facebook.com/FotografiayRevolution