MUNICIPAL POLITICS

Madrid mayor to cede municipal buildings to squatter groups

Manuela Carmena keen to see social organizations such as Patio Maravillas find a home

Carmena, con Purificación Causapie, en la rueda de prensa en la que ha anunciado que el Ayuntamiento buscará un edificio para Patio Maravillas.
Carmena, con Purificación Causapie, en la rueda de prensa en la que ha anunciado que el Ayuntamiento buscará un edificio para Patio Maravillas.LUIS SEVILLANO

The mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, announced on Thursday that City Hall is studying the possibility of ceding empty municipal buildings to social organizations, such as the squatter group Patio Maravillas.

“We believe that Patio Maravillas is important given the possibilities that it was offering, and would be able to offer,” the mayor said. “It was providing an important educational service.”

Patio Maravillas has been evicted by the police from two separate properties in the space of just a few months

Social center Patio Maravillas has found its home in a number of empty buildings in the center of Madrid over recent years. However, it has been evicted by the police from two separate properties in the space of just a few months.

Carmena, who became mayor running with Podemos-backed left-wing bloc Ahora Madrid, made clear that no organization that was operating outside the law would be able to access a municipal property. But she went on to explain that there are a number of empty buildings in the Spanish capital and that City Hall wants to put that real estate to use.

Pablo Padilla, a deputy for Podemos in the Madrid regional government, moves items from Patio Maravillas during its latest eviction.
Pablo Padilla, a deputy for Podemos in the Madrid regional government, moves items from Patio Maravillas during its latest eviction.Julián Rojas

Carmena is planning on establishing a protocol for those interested in finding a building from which to operate, which will include a declaration against hatred and in favor of tolerance, thus prohibiting successful applications from neo-Nazi or anti-immigrant groups.

Shortly after the announcement, the regional premier in Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes of the conservative Popular Party (PP), called on the council to explain the plan in detail to citizens. “These spaces are for everyone, not just a few collectives,” Cifuentes said.

A spokesperson for the PP in the council, Íñigo Henríquez de Luna, also expressed his opposition to ceding municipal properties to squatter groups. “We are radically opposed to allowing a collective that has systematically broken the law to be granted use of any public buildings,” Luna said. The PP has called on Carmena to put the use of these buildings out to public tender, “so that any association that is interested can apply, and to avoid them being handed out to collectives with connections to Ahora Madrid.”

These spaces are for everyone, not just a few collectives” Madrid regional premier, Cristina Cifuentes

Like Podemos, Ahora Madrid was one of the political groups to emerge from the popular protests in Spain that began in 2011, after the so-called “15-M” demonstrations in Sol square and throughout the country began to take shape. The May 15 movement expressed the frustration and unhappiness of a wide cross section of the public with Spain’s political class, which has been plagued by corruption scandals over recent years.

Manuela Carmena, a former judge, was the mayoral candidate presented by Ahora Madrid, which is made up of, among other, social activists, members of anti-austerity group Podemos, former members of the United Left (IU) and other leftist groups. While the party did not win the elections outright (the Popular Party took most seats, without securing a majority), a deal with the Socialist Party (PSOE) gave them the votes needed to see Carmena elected mayor.

One of Ahora Madrid’s councilors, Celia Mayer, who is now responsible for culture and sport in City Hall, is an activist with links to Patio Maravillas.

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