Is this the world's most radical mayor? Ada Colau of Barcelano
Ada Colau spent the first years of the new millennium embroiled in activism, protesting and campaigning against wars, poor housing and gentrification. While working for the PAH, she developed her distinctive style of speech, which rests on a sincere, if carefully crafted, populism. She has said that she wants to "feminise" politics and avoids macho or old-left rhetoric.
to read Dan Hancox' article published in The Guardian, May 26, 2016, click on
link to www.theguardian.com
Colau was there to discuss the housing crisis that had devastated Spain. Since the financial crisis, 400,000 homes had been foreclosed and a further 3.4m properties lay empty. In response, Colau had helped to set up a grassroots organisation, the Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH), which championed the rights of citizens unable to pay their mortgages or threatened with eviction. Founded in 2009, the PAH quickly became a model for other activists, and a nationwide network of leaderless local groups emerged. Soon, people across Spain were joining together to campaign against mortgage lenders, occupy banks and physically block bailiffs from carrying out evictions...
It has become commonplace across the western world to talk of "new politics" in response to voter apathy, economic crises, corruption and the decline of established political parties. In Spain, however, the phrase has a ring of truth to it. After years of social upheaval following the financial crisis, widespread uprisings against political and business elites have transformed the country's political landscape. Just as the Indignados, who occupied Spanish squares in their millions in the summer of 2011, inspired the global Occupy movement, it was in Spain, too, that this energy was first channelled into political movements capable of contesting elections, such as the leftwing populist party Podemos.
The Podemos revolution: how a small group of radical academics changed European politics
Colau has been involved every step of the way, and as mayor of the country's second-biggest city, she now possesses real political power - arguably more so than Podemos, which came third in the Spanish general election last December. The question Colau now faces is a vital one for the left across Europe: can she put her radical agenda into practice?...
As tourism has exploded, radically reshaping the city, the question of who Barcelona is ultimately for has become increasingly insistent. "Any city that sacrifices itself on the altar of mass tourism," Colau has said, "will be abandoned by its people when they can no longer afford the cost of housing, food and basic everyday necessities." Everyone is proud of Barcelona's international reputation, Colau told me, but at what cost? "There's a sense that Barcelona could risk losing its soul. We need to seek a fair balance between the best version of globalisation, and keeping the character, identity and life of the city. This is what makes it attractive - it is not a monumental city, and it is not a world capital like Paris - its main feature is precisely its life, its plurality, its Mediterranean diversity."
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