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Spain: Miners on Strike Bring Struggle to the Net

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

On May 23, 2012, Spanish miners went on an indefinite strike in the coalfields and in the streets, blocking roadways and forming barricades. The movement is protesting the government's decision to do away with 63 percent of state subsidies of coal. The cuts to the Spanish coal mining industry do not include any solutions for their consequences: the cuts are not paired with any professional retraining for the miners, and will therefore add to the already high number of unemployed in the country.

The mining protest has had a strong echo on social networking sites. The Twitter account “Mineros de León” [es] (Miners of León), which has renamed itself “Miners of Spain”, has had intense activity and almost 10,000 followers. The man behind the account, Victor Herrero, who is the son and grandson of miners, wants to disseminate the miners’ struggle on the Internet. He retweets messages of support he receives, including from outside Spain, and means to prevent any incitement of violence.

From that account, he has reported on the Marcha Negra (Black March), a march started last Friday which will end in Madrid on July 11. The miners have also responded via the web to criticisms and doubts making the rounds about their sector. Below is an excerpt of the “Letter from an Asturian miner” written by Juan José Fernández which is circulating around the Internet:

La lucha que están llevando los compañeros en éstos momentos, no es para pedir dinero, sino para que se respete el acuerdo firmado el año pasado entre el Ministerio de Industria y los sindicatos mineros, la firma de éste acuerdo tenía unas ayudas asignadas hasta el año 2018.

Éste dinero lo dió La Comunidad Europea y no los Gobiernos Españoles, con esto quiero decir que no lo puso ningún español para ayudarnos como piensa mucha de la gente que tanto nos critica. En cuanto a éste dinero lo que yo me pregunto, como casi todas las familias mineras, es donde está la parte de los Fondos Mineros que supuestamente iría destinada a la creación de industrias alternativas al carbón en las cuencas mineras, después del cierre de las minas. Pues bien, cómo en muchos otros sectores, el dinero lo manejaron los políticos y los sindicatos. Con parte de éste dinero, os podría decir, por ejemplo, que el Señor Gabino de Lorenzo ( ex-alcalde de Oviedo) pagó las farolas de su ciudad, el nuevo Palacio de Exposiciones y Congresos y otras muchas obras. La ex-alcaldesa de Gijón ( la Señora Felgeroso) lo invirtió en la Universidad Laboral y cómo el primero, también en otras obras.

The struggle that my fellow miners are enduring at the moment is not to ask for money, but to have the agreement signed last year between the Ministry of Industry and miners’ unions, which said subsidies would be assigned until 2018, be respected.

This money was given by the European Community and not the Spanish governments, by this I mean to say that no Spaniard is made to help us like many of the people who criticize us think. As for this money, what I wonder, like almost all mining families, is where is the part of the Mining Funds that supposedly would be going toward the creation of alternative industries to coal in the mining fields, after the closing of the mines. Well, like many other sectors, the money was handled by the politicians and the unions. With part of this money, I could tell you all, for example, that Mr. Gabino de Lorenzo (ex-mayor of Oviedo) payed for the city's streetlamps, the new Exhibition and Conference Center and many other public works. The ex-mayor of Gijón (Ms. Felgeroso) invested it in the Labor University and like the former, also in other public works.

Miners Enter Ariño

Residents welcome the arriving miners in Ariño on their march. Photo by Democracia Real Ya.

The webpage Lanzanos.com is home to a crowdfunding campaign that has already collected more than 9,000 euros (US $11,176) to support the Marcha Negra; this has made it possible to rent an RV to attend to the protesters, in case one of them should come down with heatstroke or any other incident should happen. Here is part of the message that accompanied the petition for donations:

El movimiento Mineros de España nace como respuesta de este colectivo al silencio informativo que sufríamos al comienzo de nuestras movilizaciones por los diferentes medios de comunicación. Escogimos Twitter por ser la red social a nuestro parecer más directa de llegar a los ciudadanos y poder enseñarles de primera mano todo lo que va aconteciendo en nuestra lucha. las redes sociales nunca habían sido utilizadas en una huelga minera siendo Víctor herrero el que tras hablar con los responsables de CC.OO comienza a tuitear y a arengar a los mineros que estaban en las carreteras. El inmediato interés generado por todo el colectivo obrero de diferentes y dispares sectores y el apoyo popular en la calle nos hice crecer como la 5º cuenta de Twitter mas recomendada a nivel nacional en tiempo récord.

The Miners of Spain movement was created as a response to the collective silence of the media that we suffered at the beginning of our mobilizations. We chose Twitter to be our social network home in order to be the most direct with citizens and to be able to teach them first-hand everything that is happening in our struggle. Social networks never have been utilized in a miners’ strike, it being Víctor Herrero who through speaking with the leaders at CC.OO [trade union] began to tweet about and to rally the miners who were in the streets. The immediate interest generated by this collective of workers from different and distinct sectors and the popular support in the street has made us grow to be the fifth most recommended Twitter account on a national level in record time.

The web has allowed for strong social support to affirm the miners’ cause. Another of the events closely followed by the Internet has been the removal of the miners’ wives when they attended a budget vote in the Senate last week. Once the results of the vote were made public, the women began to sing the hymn of the miners, some in tears. They denounced the treatments that they have received and the lack of negotiations with the politicians.

In the following video, those supporting the miners sing the miner's hymn in the Senate:

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

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