Spain bank halts evictions after second suicide

Katell Abiven
1 / 2

The economic crisis, blamed on the collapse of a speculation-driven real estate boom, has plunged Spain into recession

People attend a demonstration in front of a court house in the Northern Spanish Basque town of Barakaldo, on November 9, hours after the death of Amaya Egana. Egana, 53, commited suicide jumping from the balcony of her home before she was going to be evicted

A Spanish savings bank halted all home-owner evictions at the weekend after a ruined client threw herself out of a window to her death, unleashing anti-bank protests in the streets.

The decision by Kutxabank, a lender in the northern Basque Country, was unprecedented in Spain, where banks and homeowners have been financially crushed by a 2008 property crash.

It was the second suicide linked to the eviction of a financially distressed home owner in 15 days.

Right-leaning Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy promised on Friday to offer proposals to ease the pressure on home-owners on Monday in talks with the opposition Socialists.

"The president of Kutxabank, Mario Fernandez, has instructed that the entity should immediately halt all mortgage-related eviction procedures until the new related regulations are known," the bank said Saturday.

The suspension of evictions only affects loans on people's primary homes, it said.

The previous day, 53-year-old former Socialist politician Amaia Egana committed suicide by hurling herself out of her apartment window "as the bailiffs were to evict her from her home," Basque police said.

Her suicide came 15 days after 53-year-old Jose Luis Domingo hanged himself shortly before bailiffs came to turn him out of his home in the southern city of Granada.

After the latest suicide, hundreds of people demonstrated on Friday in Madrid and in the victim's municipality of Barakaldo.

With cries of "Guilty! Guilty!" and "Shame! Shame!" the Madrid protesters denounced banks like state-rescued lender Bankia for continuing to evict homeowners struck by unemployment and the eurozone crisis.

A banner reading "credit scam" could be seen hanging next to Caja Madrid -- part of the Bankia group -- as the protesters held a minute's silence for the dead woman.

Debt-struck homeowners have been camping outside Caja Madrid with mats and sleeping bags since October 22, demanding they be spared eviction and have their debts renegotiated.

Last month, a group of top magistrates released a report denouncing the trend of forced evictions, which they said have risen by a fifth this year and totalled 350,000 between 2008 and 2011.

They complained of "extremely aggressive judicial procedures against debtors" who "find themselves defenceless in a crisis that they did not cause."

Rajoy said Friday he hoped that the talks with the opposition would include discussion of a "temporary halt to the evictions which are hitting the most vulnerable families."

He is also seeking ways to make the banks better apply their code of conduct, to renegotiate debts and allow people to remain in their homes. "It's a difficult subject and I hope we will soon be able to give good news to all the Spanish people," Rajoy said.

The eurozone's fourth-largest economy, Spain has been mired in recession since last year, building up a record-high unemployment rate of more than 25 percent.