Barcelona is full of tourists. The number of overnight stays increased last year. The cafes around Plaça Catalunya still serve overpriced coffee, while the police chase away beggars. To find the crisis, you have to walk a few blocks away.
At an intersection on Avinguda Diagonal, I encounter Pedro Panlador, a slight man who has positioned himself in front of a Bankia branch. He wants to storm the bank. A few like-minded people have joined him. They called the offices of newspapers so that they would report on their protest, but the papers declined. Banks are being stormed all over Spain at the moment.
Bankia, a Madrid bank created in 2010 by the merging of seven regional saving banks, evicted Panlador from his condominium because he could no longer make his loan payments. In the first three months of this year, the occupants of 200 apartments and houses were evicted every day throughout Spain.
Panlador, born in Colombia, has lived in Barcelona for 12 years. He currently has €242,000 in debt. He was a chauffeur before the crisis. Now he’s been unemployed for over two years.
Pedestrians walk by, some encouraging him and some applauding. No one thinks it’s wrong to be standing in front of a bank and calling the employees “criminals.” Panlador says that he intends to remain “peaceful” and that he only wants to “speak with the director.”
Bankia lost €3 billion in 2011, and now the bank needs more than €20 billion to avoid going into bankruptcy and bringing down the Spanish financial system with it.
The last CEO was Rodrigo Rato, who served as finance minister under former Prime Minister José María Aznar. Rato was also managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) until 2007. It’s possible that the IMF will soon have to rescue Spain. It sounds like a joke.
Panlador and his boys are ready to begin storming the bank. They’re doing this for the first time. Panlador has already camped out in front of a Bankia branch before, but he feels that storming a bank makes a greater impression. He musters up courage and walks up to the entrance, where he sees that the branch has a security door and a doorbell.
For the first part of the series: Everything revolves around the crisis