World, Europe

Protesters occupy Madrid’s famous Prado Museum

Survivors of mass poisoning in 1980s demand to speak to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez

Alyssa McMurtry   | 19.10.2021
Protesters occupy Madrid’s famous Prado Museum A view of Prado Museum ( FILE PHOTO - Anadolu Agency )

OVIEDO, Spain

A group of protesters who survived a mass poisoning in 1981 threatened to kill themselves in Madrid’s famous Prado Museum on Tuesday if their demands to speak to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez were not met.

Six protesters parked themselves in front of the emblematic Las Meninas painting by Diego Velázquez, holding a sign that accused the Spanish state of having abandoned them for 40 years.

“What they’ve been waiting for all these years is for us to die so the problem will go away, so we have to use the only thing that we have left in our diminished lives and give them the opportunity to watch our lives end,” read the statement issued by the organization Seguimos Viviendo (We’re Still Alive).

The statement said the protesters had the pills needed to commit suicide, which they would take every six hours, and would also refuse to eat or leave the museum.

But just two hours after they occupied the museum, police dispersed the protesters and arrested two of them.

All six protesters had the misfortune of consuming rapeseed oil in 1981 that was originally intended for industrial use, but was illegally refined and sold as olive oil by street vendors.

According to the Spanish government, 20,643 people who ingested the oil were affected by toxic oil syndrome. Many of them are now chronically disabled.

In the first 18 months of the outbreak, 400 people died, but that number has now risen to 3,800, making it the deadliest food poisoning in modern European history.

“This disease has ruined our lives … and we’ve got nothing, not even recognition,” Maria Luisa, spokeswoman of Seguimos Viviendo, told Spanish radio on Tuesday.

She was affected when she was 11 years old and said she lives with pain, fever and extreme fatigue.

The group is advocating for specialized medical treatment, more research, social support, public recognition and dignified pensions.

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