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Spanish Banks Halt Evictions Amid Growing Protests

The minister pointed out that the eviction crisis comes at a time when Spain has 1 million empty houses whose owners cannot find buyers, chiefly because banks are reluctant to give loans.

The Spanish bank group said it made its decision following talks with government officials last week. It added that it wants "to help alleviate the situation of helplessness that many people are suffering owing to the economic crisis."

It said that pending new government measures, cases likely to be covered by the decision would include houses with people who have serious illnesses or disabilities and those with very elderly people. It made no mention of people who had lost their jobs.

Earlier, Angel Ron, president of Spain's Banco Popular, warned against letting any new measures open the door to more people defaulting because they feel protected.

On Monday, the evictions of at least two couples in Madrid and one in eastern Valencia were called off. As in other cases, crowds of protesters had gathered outside the apartment buildings to try to prevent police and court officials from entering. The protest movement has gathered momentum nationally in recent years as the dramatic impact of the repossessions has increasingly angered Spaniards.

Spain is in its second recession in three years following a property crash in 2008. The government predicts its economy will not grow until 2014. Unemployment is at 25 percent, the highest among the 17 nations using the euro currency.

Spain's General Council of the Judiciary, a police union and opposition parties have all come out in recent days to demand new legislation to end the widespread evictions.

Last week, the European Court of Justice's advocate general, Juliane Kokott, said Spain's rules regarding evictions are at odds with European Union customer protection requirements.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy later pledged to begin work on agreeing to necessary modifications.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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