New mayor of Cádiz unable to stop home eviction despite mediation

Leftist José María González has made housing, food and reindustrialization his priorities

Raúl Limón
José María Gonzalez (right), the new mayor of Cádiz.
José María Gonzalez (right), the new mayor of Cádiz.PACO PUENTES (EL PAIS)

Not even the mediation of the new left-wing mayor of Cádiz and four of his councilors was enough to prevent a home eviction on Monday morning in the southwestern Andalusian city.

The police physically removed the councilors and other protestors from the site before carrying out their eviction order against a family of tenants who had stopped meeting their monthly payments after their rent-control lease ran out.

City officials have taken the family to a local hostel until a solution can be found.

“Hunger first,” said González during the campaign run before the municipal and local elections of May 24

“This is not a defeat. It is a problem going back many years,” said Mayor José María González, who ran with a leftist coalition named Por Cádiz Sí Se Puede (For Cádiz Yes We Can), and which included the emerging anti-austerity party Podemos.

González, also known popularly by his nickname “Kichi,” is one of several new leftist mayors who have made the fight against home evictions a priority issue. In Barcelona, former social activist Ada Colau stopped two evictions on her first day on the job, while Madrid’s Manuela Carmena also mediated in a foreclosure.

In Cádiz, the mayor had offered the owners of the property a month’s rent to gain some time and find a housing solution. But the deal was rejected and officials went ahead with the eviction procedures against the Moreno family.

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The father, Antonio, is ill and receives a disability check. He and his wife have a 16-year-old daughter. An earlier attempt at vacating the premises was prevented 20 days ago by a group of activists.

The family had been living in the same apartment for the last 25 years, paying low rent because of their old contract conditions. But when the lease ran out, the new rent was too much for Moreno’s checks to cover. The owners then moved to have them evicted.

“The family will not end up sleeping on the streets,” said Mayor González after seeing the Morenos off en route to a city hostel.

A personal history of social work

Born in Rotterdam in 1976, Mayor José María González is the son of Spanish emigrés who returned to Cádiz when he was four years old. As a teenager, he volunteered for a Roman Catholic group called La Divina Pastora, helping other minors at risk of social exclusion. He now talks about that period of his life as his “basic schooling.”

Before joining the Indignados popular protest movement and the Anticapitalist Left – where he met his partner, Teresa Rodríguez, now head of Podemos at the Andalusian regional assembly – González was a high school teacher and a unionist who led protests against education cuts.

González has stated that his priorities as a mayor will be housing and nutrition. “Hunger first,” he said during the campaign run before the municipal and local elections of May 24.

But unemployment will also be a major issue in a city with a jobless rate of 42 percent, which is as high as 72 percent among young people.

González has put together a team of engineers, economists, architects and university professors to draft a reindustrialization plan based on reactivating key industries. These industries, whose flagship companies are Airbus, Dragados and Navantia, are expected to provide jobs in the "belt" surrounding the capital, home to around 800,000 people.

Other key economic sectors include fishing and ancillary services, tourism and entrepreneurship.

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