Saturday, October 16

From the Murcia coast to Helsinki: Spaniards around the world sign to give rights to the Mar Menor

They started out as nine, but have multiplied into thousands. The notaries – in charge of collecting signatures – of the Popular Legislative Initiative (ILP) to provide legal personality to the Mar Menor they have stepped on the accelerator. With less than a month and a half to exhaust the deadline and submit to the Central Electoral Board the half a million signatures necessary to process it in Congress, they have armed more than 400 points to attract wills and have already obtained 375,000 signatures – according to the latest count , a couple of weeks ago– both in Spain and abroad, where the clamor of the Mar Menor has been heard in countries such as France, Holland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Finland, Germany or Brussels.

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The countdown to the ILP began on November 28, 2020. The deadline was nine months, until next October 28. Just over 30 days ago they had 228,180 signatures, but in the last month alone they have obtained almost 150,000.

“Since the last episode of fish mortality this August in the Mar Menor we have had an invasion of petitions to sign,” Ada García, one of the promoters of the ILP and a member of Por un Mar Menor, explains to Murcia Region Alive. “There are also more and more people who want to be notarized, those responsible for collecting the signatures, there are thousands; each of the promoters has made their notaries, and these in turn theirs, it is a huge network that is everywhere and it’s the beauty of being a popular initiative. ”

In return, he notes, “we have many documents distributed that we do not know in what state they are, if they have been filled out or not, and we need them to send them back to us, as they are,” he asks the notaries who have distributed throughout the national territory, “Since those that we have sent out of Spain are fewer (only Spanish nationals can sign) and we have them more controlled.”

Lorenzo Sandoval, a Murcian artist and exhibition curator living in Berlin, the German capital, for 12 years, is one of them. “I became interested in the initiative after the last crisis in the Mar Menor and the specifications came to me recently; I am not doing it just because I am from Murcia, this is a global problem of environmental awareness.” Even so, Lorenzo – who is not the only notary in Germany – has a strong bond with the salty lagoon, since “forever” he has spent the summer there with his family, in the coastal areas of Santiago de La Ribera, Lo Pagán and Los Narejos. And he feels “saddened” by the agony of the Mar Menor, as well as by all the sectors that have been affected by its state: “The economic activity of fishermen, or of all those people who are dedicated to the tourism sector; absolute shame what is happening in recent years and political inaction. ”

For Sandoval it is “very interesting” to see how Murcian society is waking up with all the problems of the lagoon. “They are taking a great environmental awareness, they are organizing and they are receiving a lot of solidarity not only in Spain, but also in other countries.”

Although foreigners cannot sign, “they have shown their willingness to do so and there have even been many of those who reside part of the year in the Region – there is a large sector that has homes on the ‘Marmenorense’ coast – who have wanted to sign. and by not being able to be present in this initiative, they have been disappointed, “says Ada, from the platform Por un Mar Menor Vivo.

Perhaps the most picturesque place where signatures have been collected for the Mar Menor has been the ice block castle built by Joaquín Jiménez Ballester in Helsinki, capital of Finland – where he has been a hotel manager for a decade – together with his children and some friends. “We used 300 cartons of milk” to create the blocks, he says. Joaquín’s family settled in Santiago de la Ribera more than a century ago. “I am a fisherman from my great-grandfather. My father and brother have also been, and for me the Mar Menor is an essential part of my life, I have felt a lot of helplessness and a lot of anger.” Becoming a notary, he acknowledges, has been something rather symbolic “because here in Helsinki there is not a very large community of Spaniards, but it was a way of supporting and encouraging people who are working so much for the Mar Menor in Murcia and other points of Spain, dedicating so many hours and sometimes putting money out of his pocket for the cause, especially in these difficult times of the pandemic. ”

Mari Carmen Pereira, unlike Lorenzo and Joaquín, does not know the salty lagoon physically. Even so, from the first moment and in an almost interrupted way until now, neither the cold, nor the rain, nor the heat of Madrid in August have deterred this agronomist every Friday to stand with her signature sheets at the subway entrance from Callao. “I am convinced that the proposal to grant rights to the Mar Menor will open the curtain so that other sites can imitate us.”

Pereira considers that the notary’s work is not only to collect signatures, “we also have to worry about the message, that it reaches the public and that the people who listen to us help us to expand it”, that is why it also collaborates in other initiatives such as an exhibition on the Mar Menor that will be inaugurated on September 23 at the UGT headquarters in Madrid, and in which a round table will also take place. “It is a problem for everyone, not only Murcia, and we have to become aware of it.” Mari Carmen, along with her team, will continue to collect signatures until the last day: “From the last weekend of August, Saturdays and Sundays are collected; a group has been created that is in three points on weekends in Puerta del Retiro , Plaza Santa Ana and Callao “.

The last ten boxes with sheets arrived a few days ago in Murcia. “We had to go to the Electoral Board again because we had been left empty-handed, and I only have one box left, a total of sheets have been printed for a million signatures,” explains Teresa Vicente, ILP ideologist and director of the Chair of Human Rights and Rights of Nature of the University of Murcia (UMU).

This Tuesday some of those last sheets were flying to the United Kingdom. The orensana María Prieto was waiting for you, researcher, artist, architect, anthropologist and activist living in Manchester since 2010. “I have become a notary public to contribute to the relationship with nature as sacred, as the mirror of what we really are, and to that the Mar Menor lagoon receive recognition of legal personality and serve as a precedent to replicate this type of initiative from citizenship and direct democratic participation “. Now he is preparing meetings “because there are very large communities of Spaniards here in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and some nearby towns; we also have the Cervantes Institute and Spanish students in the universities and I hope to be able to get many signatures.”

Teresa Vicente is optimistic about the ILP. “Even the prison population has wanted to show their support with the Mar Menor, this Monday I was in the Campos del Río prison (in the Region of Murcia), we have set up an exhibition and a cinema forum, and this Thursday a group of inmates met he has notarized to request the signature of his colleagues “.

He proudly highlights that his initiative has become a global example. “The Secretary General of the United Nations appoints us in his report ‘Harmony with Nature‘, and they also take us into account in the European Union, where they have invited me to many meetings to explain our case. “However,” in the face of all this support, we have found ourselves being held back by the Government of Murcia and its Parliament. “, recalls the UMU professor.” They took away the 3,000 euros that they had allocated to the Chair of Rights of Nature and they did not want to listen to us in the Regional Assembly (they do not have the support of either PP or Vox), that’s why we present the ILP in Congress “.

Vicente is now preparing, together with a dozen mayors of Murcian municipalities, “among which there are also the PP”, a new initiative to present a bill in the autonomous Parliament. “In this way we could enter Congress with the ILP, the citizens, and the support of our parliamentary groups.”

On October 7 – Ada anticipates – a demonstration has also been organized in Murcia capital that will start from the Government Delegation and the San Esteban Palace (headquarters of the regional Executive) to the Ministry of Agriculture. “Even the smallest association is supporting us, so that the problem of spillage is solved once and for all.”