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One Spanish Mayor Is Stealing Groceries for the Poor, and Another Refuses to Eat

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Two Spanish mayors, fed up with austerity measures, have started using food as a form of protest.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Austerity programs in Spain encounter their newest foe in a principled Andalusian mayor, The Irish Times reports. Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, 59, mayor of the small town Marinaleda, is as close as we'll ever get to a superhero, his arch-enemy being prevailing Spanish economic policy. He has twice now funneled food from local supermarkets and redistributed items among the poor.

So far seven people -- labor unionists who act as his "arms and legs," as Captain Ahab once famously said of his crew -- have been jailed following the plunderings.

Cheered on by the surrounding crowd, the unionists carted food taken and not paid for out of the supermarket, where Gordillo awaited them, shouting words of encouragement through a megaphone. Though the doughty mayor enjoys political immunity, he has offered to surrender it in solidarity with the popular cause of which he is a symbol.

Gordillo wants his actions to underscore the scale of Spanish unemployment, which reached 24.6% in July, and what he sees as an underwhelming and ultimately ineffective response by the government. To him, layoffs, huge tax hikes, and unforgiving cuts in public spending are no solution to a problem not caused by the poor, who will feel the worst effects of the austerity programs. A self-identified communist, he maintains that he's simply giving to the people the sustenance that they've worked for.

Of course, Gordillo's expropriations have been met with little approbation by major politicians, who have openly condemned his actions. Alfonso Alonson, spokesman for the ruling People's Party (PP ), said, "This man is just searching for publicity at the cost of everyone else." But Gordillo has no time for such judgments as he prepares to sally out across Andalusia, entreating other mayors to refuse the austerity measures that threaten to extend far into Spain's future as a member of the eurozone.

Gordillo isn't the only Spanish mayor making waves with his activism. Der Spiegel reports that Angel Vadillo, mayor of Alburquerque, has been staging a hunger strike for two months outside of Madrid's Ministry of Industry.

Vadillo is protesting wholesale cuts to Alburquerque's solar energy programs, which he says will require about 850 layoffs in the small town. Der Spiegel notes that the measure will ripple across Spain's vital energy industry, leading to the loss of some 10,000 jobs.

Vadillo, having cultivated a tremendous following both in Alburquerque and online, says he will not eat again until the Minister of Industry agrees to hear his demands.

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