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Spain's hungry mayor on a mission • Ian

Angel Vadillo has been fasting for 74 days, in protest of austerity policies that have 'ruined his town's future'

Every weekday morning Angel Vadillo, mayor of the Spanish town of Alburquerque , holds meetings, replies to emails, and fields telephone calls. Indeed, it would be business as usual, were it not that Mr Vadillo is currently on day 74 of a hunger strike outside the huge office blocks that house the ministry of industry in Madrid.

For over two months, Mr Vadillo has been conducting a one-man fight against austerity measures that have, he says, ruined the prospects for Spain's renewable energy industry. Visibly emaciated, his only daily sustenance is eight litres of water with honey as he sits or lies in a hired van in a car park 10 metres from the ministry's gates.

"They could let me die, but if they allowed a mayor of a town to die, for a democracy that's a serious problem," Mr Vadillo - a gaunt giant of a man who has lost 23kg and 5cm of muscle mass since his strike started - tells The Independent as he shakily rolls a cigarette. "The longer my struggle goes on, the more I suffer, the more attention people are going to pay me."

His decision to stage the strike came after the Industry Minister, Jose Manuel Soria, announced all subsidies for new renewable energy projects would be cut in January as part of austerity measures to help curb Spain's debt crisis. Mr Vadillo says the consequences for Alburquerque , whose economic future was heavily dependent on five new solar power plants, are disastrous.

With the power plant plans on hold, the mayor estimates some 850 workers in Alburquerque , a town of 5,000 near the Portuguese frontier in Extremadura , will now join Spain's millions of unemployed. Not only that - the Euro 36m of taxes that filled Alburquerque's coffers thanks to advance payments by the new plants have been wiped out, forcing him to close the town's old people's home as well as a centre for the disabled. "We're in recession and we could generate employment with these sorts of projects all over Spain," Mr Vadillo says. "It can't be that Germany is the No 1 in solar power in Europe when we've got this amazing sunshine." Mr Vadillo says he will end the strike when the ministry initiates negotiations involving all parties affected by the cuts. Interest in Mr Vadillo's case has grown elsewhere. Civil servants from the ministry leave their desks to join him in a half hour protest each morning and he has an estimated four million supporters online. After what he calls an initially sluggish response , Spain's ecological movements are also coming on board too.


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