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The Robin Hood Of The Debt Crisis

Enric Durán has $642,306 in debt, and no intention of paying it back.

There are plenty of ways people are experimenting with the loan bubble, but the story of Enric Durán may be the most extreme. This weekend, Vice writer Paul Geddis interviewed the elusive Catalan anticapitalist, whom the press has nicknamed "Robbin Banks."

Durán was granted 39 loans—for a total of 492,000 euros—in the two years leading up to the global financial meltdown. He never intended to pay them back. Instead, he used the money to finance projects like a newspaper called Crisi, which aimed to publicize solutions to what he saw as a looming economic bust, among other activist projects. Durán characterizes the half-million-dollar loan as a kind of civil disobedience. Geddis describes him as a "guinea pig with bombs strapped to it trying to dismantle the system and see if alternatives can work:"

There were two main goals. One was to denounce the financial system as something unsustainable, and the second goal was to show that we can be disobedient, brave, and that we can empower ourselves… We wanted to use the money for a project that could prove how methods other than capitalism were possible.

Durán is now being prosecuted by a number of banks—though of course, he has no way to pay back the loans. Instead, he’s spent several years in jail. Still, he sees his actions as a radicalized version of what millions of people are doing every day:

Well, a lot of people are already doing it by accident; not paying off debts was one of the things that took down the financial system in the first place. Not so much with small loans and private mortgages, but with big construction and property development companies that couldn’t pay their debt and ended up going bankrupt. The chance of the overall plan going global isn’t very probable, but the important thing is to spread the idea of the little changes and decisions you can make to help the world become a better place.

There are plenty of things to criticize about Durán’s approach—we’ll leave that for the commenters—but it is indicative of a growing wave of activism that attempts to curb predatory lending. For example, the many church congregations that have opened up loan shops to provide alternatives to shady payday lenders. Or the Rolling Jubilee, a nonprofit that buys debt for pennies on the dollar and then abolishes it—freeing unsuspecting people from their debts as they go. Read the full interview on Vice here.

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  • Guest

    This guy is an idiot. He tried to make a business, failed, and now expects others to pay for his failures. Now he'll go to jail, which is funded by others as well. He's just a dead weight to society, contributes absolutely nothing, expects everything for free, and some how gets written about?! I'm regretting even giving him my time to write this response.

  • Predrag Trifunovic

    Robin Hood? Took money to open a newspaper, where he is preaching about things like, empowering ourselves by stealing money from the banks? Idiocy, simple idiocy. Btw. the meaning of Robin Hood as a stereotype, is to 'take from the rich, and give to the poor'. Not to take from the rich and write about it. People have democracies, they can vote, if they want the money to be handled by the people, next time they'll vote for a socialist party, or make a revolution as seen in eastern Europe. Until then it is sane to assume, people want capitalism, people want the banks, people want the ability to buy things they themselves cannot afford by their regular salaries. Crying and lamenting is just a sign of own uncapability to cope with ones own failure.

  • Scott

    I was hoping that this would be a story about a guy who took out loans to bail out families or the needy.

    Also, stealing is wrong.

  • Sam

    yeah, lets destroy all of the banks! Maybe if we all try really hard, we can wipe them from existence and put those bankers and all of the millions who work for those banks out of a job! They can join the millions more who will soon be unemployed because they couldn't finance their business or borrow money for payroll or a company expansion. And end mortgages because they are evil too, we can all either live in the woods or better yet, find some one else's house and squat in it! We could go back to the dark ages, won't that be fun!!!

  • Guest

    I like it!  I'm not going to do it, but I like it.
    What I've been thinking about lately is forcing the bailed-out banks back into failure.  They failed, they took our money (either through bailouts with tax dollars or by manipulating markets to shift money into those controlling the markets), and once again they're making record profits (and poor financial decisions!).  And we're complicit in this - we're allowing it to happen.
    Let's set a date when everyone who banks with JPMorgan withdraws and closes their accounts on or before that date.  Then set another date and everyone who banks with Bank of America withdraws and closes their accounts on or before that date.  Continue down the list of banks that received a bailout until they all cease to exist.  If done in a controlled manner, moving funds from "bad banks" to local credit unions, we should be able to tear down a portion of the untenable financial institution without causing an all-out financial collapse.  It's well past time to stop letting imaginary numbers, manipulated by a select few, dictate the economy.

  • Automan25

    Are you a troll or just looking for someone else to blame? Yes the banks were irresponsible and shoulder some of the blame, but you must not forget all the consumers who accepted loan terms they knew they were incapable of paying back. You should never rely on someone else, financial institutions included, to make financial decisions for you. They are in the business of making money, not in helping you get your dream home; and rightfully so. The bottom line is, without personal responsibility, our society is doomed to fail.

  • Andre

    So the dude stole money. Even if the banks are wrong, what justifies you to steal money from someone else? 

  • RMori

    Exactly. This Duran guy is a total asshole...

    To the commenter below - Andre doesn't "think" Duran is wrong, he knows it (probably because he has morals). It is wrong to steal $642,306, or even $1 for that matter. End of story.

    p.s.- Robin Hood was an asshole too...

  • Guest

    Did you see the title of the article? "The ROBIN HOOD of the Debt Crisis"  Are you familiar with the story of Robin Hood?  He was a thief.  He stole. 
    People justify their actions all the time - doesn't make their actions right, and doesn't make them wrong.  Perhaps you think he's wrong - but why should he not do what he thinks is right just because you think he's wrong?