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Manifesto of Spanish nun Sister Forcades taps anger at austerity

Advocate of Spanish protest movement against excesses of capitalism draws huge support

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 April, 2013, 3:29am


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From her small convent in the mountains near Barcelona, Sister Teresa Forcades, a Harvard-educated Catalan nun, has emerged as a leading advocate of Spain's "indignant" protest movement against capitalism's excesses.

Forcades denounced the austerity measures implemented by Spain's conservative government, which include cuts to health and education spending.

The government imposed the cuts to rein in the public deficit. But Forcades said: "The cuts go against the needs of the majority and go in favour of the interests of a minority."

The feminist and radical thinker has lived at the convent at St Benet, about 50 kilometres north of Barcelona, since 1997. Forcades is a doctor by training. She rose to prominence during the height of the global swine flu outbreak in 2009 when she argued that vaccines against the disease rushed out by pharmaceutical companies had not been properly tested for public use.

Now, with Arcadi Oliveres, a 67-year-old economist who is one of the ideologues behind Spain's "indignant" movement, she has launched a political manifesto. And in just two days it has collected 14,000 signatures.

Among her proposals is a unilateral declaration of independence by Catalonia, a region of about 7.5 million people with its own language and culture. She also advocates the nationalisation of banks and energy firms, housing rights and tough measures against corruption.

Why should there be a tax on basic goods and no tax on financial trading?

"Why should there be a tax on basic goods and no tax on financial trading?" she said. But while she said she was against the abuses of capitalism, she did not oppose private enterprise.

The goal of the two campaigners is to present a "citizen's list" of candidates to stand in the next regional elections in Catalonia in northeastern Spain. Those elections are scheduled for 2016 - two years after the region is set to hold an independence referendum.

"We think it is imperative, necessary and possible to change society" by non-violent means, Forcades said.

"A break is needed because it is what people want."

Born in 1966 in Barcelona, Forcades said her family considered "the church, like the monarchy, to be an outdated institution".

But when she was 15 years old she read the Bible for the first time and discovered her religious vocation.

"It had an impact on me," said Forcades, who expresses her strong convictions in a soft voice and a friendly demeanour.

She studied theology in the United States and in Barcelona after completing her studies as a doctor.

But she said the basis of her religious convictions lay in Liberation Theology, a strand of Catholicism that emerged in the 1960s in Latin America and which seeks to empower the poor.