"Robin hood" Spanish mayor becomes hero for robbing supermarkets
By Paul Day
MADRID (Reuters) - A Spanish mayor who became a cult hero for staging robberies at supermarkets and giving stolen groceries to the poor sets off this week on a three-week march that could embarrass the government and energize anti-austerity campaigners.
Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, regional lawmaker and mayor of the town of Marinaleda - population 2,645 - in the southern region of Andalusia, said food stolen last week in the robberies went to families hit hardest by Spain's economic crisis.
Seven people have been arrested for participating in the two raids, in which labor unionists, cheered on by supporters, piled food into supermarket carts and walked out without paying while Sanchez Gordillo, 59, stood outside.
He has political immunity as an elected member of Andalusia's regional parliament, but says he would be happy to renounce it and be arrested himself.
"There are people who don't have enough to eat. In the 21st century, this is an absolute disgrace," he told Reuters this week in an interview in the Atocha train station in Madrid, tugging on his graying Fidel Castro-style beard.
Sanchez Gordillo says he wants to draw attention to the human face of Spain's economic mess - poverty levels have risen by over 15 percent since 2007, a quarter of workers are jobless and tens of thousands have been evicted from their homes.
The conservative government says an official has no business flouting the law.
"You can't be Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham," said Alfonso Alonso, spokesman for the ruling People's Party (PP) in the national Parliament. "This man is just searching for publicity at the cost of everyone else." Continued...