Europe’s policy of parliamentary immunity can give politicians a remarkable amount of leeway. Leeway that allows a certain mayor to rob grocery stores and give the food to the poor without getting arrested.
Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo is now considered a hero in Spain for his dramatic protests. The mayor of Marinaleda, a small town of less than 3,000 in southern Spain, led two raids “in which labour unionists, cheered on by supporters, piled food into supermarket carts and walked out without paying while Mr Sanchez Gordillo stood outside,” Reuters reports.
“There are people who don’t have enough to eat. In the 21st century, this is an absolute disgrace,” he said.
Mr Sanchez Gordillo says he wants to draw attention to the human face of Spain’s economic mess – poverty levels have risen by over 15 per cent since 2007, a quarter of workers are jobless and tens of thousands have been evicted from their homes.
The conservative government says an official has no business flouting the law.
It’s interesting to see a politician use political privilege to criticize government–something that Gordillo has been doing for some time with projects like a co-op farm that he’s aggressively sought to expand by acquiring land owned by the Ministry of Defense. And to those who says he’s just posturing for votes and attention while seven others are arrested for his grocery store derring dos? Gordillo claims he would gladly renounce his immunity and face arrest.
Maybe he should. He doesn’t have to go full William Wallace, but there is a certain appeal to putting your money where your mouth is.