Lucio Urtubia: Our Good Bandit

Lucio Urtubia can be described as a modern day Robin Hood, a man who steals from the rich to give to the poor. Lucio Urtubia, a Spanish anarchist and bricklayer carries out bank robberies, forgeries and endless actions against capitalism. His actions help to fund liberation movements in Europe, the US and Latin America.

Outspoken and charismatic, Lucio Urtubia speaks like a true anarchist. When asked what it means to be an anarchist, Lucio refutes the misperception of the terrorist, “The anarchist is a person who is good at heart, responsible.” Yet he makes no apologies for the need to destroy the current social order, “it’s good to destroy certain things, because you build things to replace them.”

Funds from the forgery operatives helped hundreds from revolutionary organizations in exile and financed clandestine actions against the bloody dictatorships which ‘disappeared’ ten thousands of activists, students and workers during the 1970’s throughout Latin America. In Uruguay, funds from falsified Citibank travellers’ checks funded the guerrilla group Tupamaros, in the US the Black Panthers and other revolutionary groups throughout Europe.

Lucio Urtubia explains that his anarchism is based in his poor childhood in fascist Spain. “My anarchist origins are rooted in my experience growing up in a poor family. My father was leftist, had gone to jail because he wanted the autonomy of the Basque country. For me that’s not revolution, I’m not nationalist. With nationalism, humanity has committed a lot of mistakes. When my father got out of jail he became a socialist. We suffered a lot. I went to look for bread and the baker wouldn’t give it to me, because we didn’t have money. For me poverty enriched me, I didn’t have to make any effort to lose respect for the establishment, the Church, private property and the State.”

In Spain, fascism persevered 30 years after the end of World War II. Hundreds are jailed for resisting the Franco dictatorship. Anthropologists have estimated that from the onset of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936 to Franco’s death in November 1975, Franco’s Nationalists killed between 75,000 and 150,000 supporters of the Republic.

Lucio Urtubia exiles to France where he discovers anarchism. He had deserted the nationalist army and escaped to France. Paris in the 1960’s was a bourgeoning city for anarchist intellectuals, organizers and guerrillas in exile. It was there that Lucio meets members from the Anarcho-Syndicalist trade union, Confederación Nacional de Trabajo (CNT).

During his early years in France, Lucio meets Francisco Sabate, the legendary anarchist and ‘guerrilla extraordinaire’. At this time Sabate, otherwise known by his nickname “El Quico” is the most sought after anarchist by the Franco regime.

It was then that Lucio begins participating in bank robberies. “There are no bigger crooks than the banks,” says Lucio in the defence of expropriation. “[This was the] only means the anarchist had, without funding from industry or government representatives to fund them. The money was sent to those suffering from Franco’s regime.” Student organizations and worker organizations received the funds to carry out grass roots organizing. In other cases the money was used for the guerrilla actions against Franco’s regime, such as campaigns for the release of political prisoners in the nationalist jails.

To save the lives of exiles, Lucio Urtubia thought of a master plan to falsify passports so Spanish nationals could travel. “Passports for a refugee means being able to escape the country and lead safe lives elsewhere,” he explains. Not only in Europe but also in the US and South America, dissidents used false ID’s to lead their lives and direct actions.

In 1977, Lucio’s group begins forging checks as a direct form to finance resistance. Lucio is essentially the “boss” of the operation—he makes, distributes and cashes the checks. The distribution of the checks went to different subversive groups who used the funds to finance solidarity actions.

Lucio’s master plan costs City Bank tens of millions of dollars in forged travellers’ checks. But many say a much larger sum was expropriated. City Bank was at the mercy of the forger, who had cost so much that the bank had to suspend travellers checks. Lucio is arrested in 1980 and found with a suitcase full of the forged checks. In the meantime during Lucio’s arrest, Citibank continued to receive false travellers’ checks.

Citbank become worried. Representatives from the bank agree to negotiate. Lucio would be released if he handed over the printing plates for the forged checks. The exchange is made, and Lucio becmes a legend for his mastermind plan. Although his life as a forger ended at 50-years-of-age, his life as an anarchist continued.

Lucio had always worked as a bricklayer. “What’s helped me the most is my work, Anarchists were always workers.” Lucio-bricklayer, anarchist, forger and expropriator has left a legacy like his predecessors. “People like Loise Michel, Sabate, Durruti, all the expropriators taught me how to expropriate, but not for personal gain, but how to use those riches for change.”

Lucio Urtubia does not apologize for his actions. “I’ve expropriated, which according to the Christian religion is a sin. For me expropriations are necessary. As the revolutionaries say, robbing and expropriation is a revolutionary act as long as one doesn’t benefit from it.”

Marie Trigona is a writer, radio producer and filmmaker based in Argentina – Article slightly revised.

Upside Down World

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