Hunger strike in Spain over restaurant refusal

LAST UPDATED: 28 May, 2007 @ 19:50
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Protestor claims mayor will not sign works licence

A SPANISH woman has started a hunger strike at a local mayor’s refusal to allow her family to open a restaurant.

Ana María Loureiro started her protest at midday on April 4. By the time the Olive Press went to print on April 17, she had spent 316 hours without solids.
The 50-year-old claims the mayor of Carataunas in La Alpujarra refuses to sign a licence that will give her and her family the green light to open a restaurant close to the town.

Holding her protest outside the building her family wants to convert into a restaurant next to the Padre Eterno chapel on the Órgiva-Trevélez road, Ana María is sleeping in a small, one-berth caravan. She drinks three litres of water a day and has a teaspoon of honey in the morning and a teaspoon of sugar in the afternoon.
However, town mayor Salvador Rodríguez has hit back at the hunger strike, believing the protestor has taken “a drastic stance.” He also claims the project is fraught with illegalities as the plot of land upon which the building stands invades a vía pecuaria, a 125,000-kilometre national network of ancient cattle roads protected under Spanish law.

“No problems”

Ana María bought the former butane gas bottle warehouse in 2002 to open a family business for her, her husband José María and their six children.

The 50-year-old, who lived in Santiago de Compostela and Madrid before moving to La Alpujarra in 1982, claims the mayor gave her his permission to open the restaurant before refusing to sign the licence.

“He initially said in 2003 there would be no problem.”

Now, the mayor maintains any work would be illegal as the plot of land invades the protected Sierra Nevada-Málaga vía pecuaria.

“If I grant a works licence for the building it will be a planning offence,” he said.

However, a Junta de Andalucía regional government document from December 2004 seen by the Olive Press discounts this. It states the ancient cattle track is found to the west of the building and gives Ana María permission to renovate the former warehouse as long as it does not invade the protected track.

Support

Describing the effect the hunger strike is having on her six children, Ana María said: “Everyone is very supportive of me. However, my youngest daughter, 15, is very worried. She is afraid.”

She is visited regularly by doctors from nearby Órgiva, who check her blood pressure, blood sugar levels and heartbeat, and, once a day, the same Guardia Civil patrol, who she describes as “phenomenal.”

“The civil guards drive up to my caravan and ask if I am okay, if I need anything. They have promised to bring me any news if there is ever any,” she says.

Ana is adamant she will continue her hunger strike until the mayor signs the licence.
“I suppose death is something that can happen. It is not my intention to die. That is not why I am doing this. But it can happen.”

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