VM

Hundreds of Serranía residents protest in Ronda the closure of Unicaja bank branches in the area

People from Villanueva de Tapia and Istán also joined the protest. More Unicaja offices will close this Friday, 18 March

VANESSA MELGAR

More than 300 people protested in Ronda on Thursday, 17 March, against the closure of more Unicaja bank branches in Malaga province this Friday. The protest took place outside the headquarters of Unicaja in the town. The latest closures will mean that Pujerra, Igualeja, Genalguacil, Jubrique, Montecorto, Gaucín-El Colmenar, Villanueva de Tapia, Bobadilla, Istán, Alfarnate and Almáchar will no longer have an office. This has already happened in Jimera de Líbar and Algatocín, among other places.

The protestors showed their anger at the bank's decision with slogans and banners aimed at Unicaja. The protestors said they are: “older, not stupid,” and are very unhappy with the forthcoming closure of local banking offices.

The movement against the closures has been strong in the Serranía area with many protests having already taken place. The group behind the protests has also had meetings with representatives from the bank. The mayors in the affected towns have also said they would withdraw funds from Unicaja accounts if more closures went ahead. Many other groups and organisations joined the protest, such as the Bobadilla neighbourhood association, the CGT Andalucía union, the platform for those affected by the Sierra Bermeja and Genal Valley fires and many more.

“We are asking Unicaja to rethink the planned closure of these bank offices. To support the people here,” said Ronda’s mayor, María de la Paz Ferández, who also insisted that: "Unicaja was born here and has grown thanks to the savings of the people who live here. We want Andalusian banks to keep operating in Andalucía." She went on to say that they have the Federation of Spanish Municipalities behind them. She also said: “We need an active policy that allows people to keep on living here. And this is important in the fight against depopulation," adding that "someone at Unicaja will have to answer" and that legislation is needed.

The mayor of Jubrique also voiced concerns, talking about “empty words” before asking: “What’s next? Schools?” He went on to claim that it is not a question of profitability, that no matter how much money the banks make, it is never enough.

From this Friday only six of Serrania's 23 municipalities will have branches of Unicaja. A single agent will also operate from Gaucín.

The mayor of Igualeja requested that the elderly be served at least once per week by the bank while Manuel Sillero, mayor of Villanueva de Tapia, said this is “one more step” on the road for small towns where “it is very hard to maintain the population.”

Even with the closures, Unicaja is the bank with the largest financial presence in the province, with 150 customer service points and 357 cash points, and it will also open an extra nine ATMs in the areas affected.