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SOCIAL PROTEST

"Robin Hood" mayor Gordillo leads laborers on "anti-unemployment" march

Coalition of leftist Andalusian forces wants government to turn over unused land and a guaranteed income for destitute

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Laborers set off on their first of a series of marches in Andalusia to call attention to high unemployment in the region.

Shouting "workers united to fight unemployment," more than 400 farm laborers began on Thursday the first of a series of long marches across the Andalusia region, which will take them to a number of different provinces over the coming days.

The first stage of the march, some 20 kilometers between the towns of Jódar and Jimena, was led by United Left (IU) coalition mayor and regional deputy Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, and the leader of the Andalusian Union of Workers (SAT), Diego Cañamero. Several SAT members were arrested last week for their Robin Hood-style looting of supermarkets in Écija and Arcos de la Frontera.

"We want a special plan for employment in the fields, the turning over of public farms that are not being used, and a basic income for the 350,000 families in Andalusia who don't have any type of financial protection," said Sánchez Gordillo, who was one of the instigators of the supermarket raids. The IU politician hasn't been charged given his immunity as an elected official.

"Squatters"

The laborers are also demanding that the government stop throwing off families who have been squatting on empty plots owned by the state. Some of the "squatter" families, including children, are taking part in the marches.

The protestors selected Jódar as their point of departure because the town of 12,000 residents in Sierra Mágina has more than 40-percent unemployment. Each year, some 2,000 people leave Jódar to go to work in the asparagus fields in Navarre and the vineyards in Castilla La Mancha and France. However, because of the drought this season only about half of the field workers were called back to France compared to last year.

The marchers waved the flags of Cuba and the Communist Party as well as a banner with the image of Argentinean revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

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