You may know the adventures of Robin Hood and Zorro, outlaws fighting for the poor. Today we meet the newest member of that club, a Chilean activist who goes by the name Papas Fritas. Francisco Tapia, known as Francisco "Papas Fritas," or French fries, says he burned $500 million worth of debt papers from the private Universidad del Mar. Chilean authorities are in the process of shutting down the university over financial irregularities. But that has not stopped the school from collecting on its student loans. During a recent student takeover of the school, Papas Fritas says he took the debt paper records, burned them and displayed the ashes inside a van as an art exhibition. "It is a concrete fact that the papers were burned. They are gone, burned completely, and there’s no debt," said Papas Fritas in his first U.S. broadcast interview. "Since these papers don’t exist anymore, there’s no way to charge the students."
Papas Fritas says he took out piles of papers, little by little, over two months and hauled them back to Santiago where he burned them, also little by little. He says that in Chile, digital backups aren't legally binding grounds for collecting debt: "For example, if you get me a copy of a dollar bill, I cannot use it to go shopping; I have to have the original bill." So in theory, he's singlehandedly cancelled half a billion dollars of debt.
It's hard to imagine the courts and the banks agreeing to this if-it's-not-on-paper-it-doesn't-count clause—they'll bend the rules for half a billion dollars—but if some clever hacktivists figured out a way to scrub digital mortgages and student loans from bank databases, their names would go down in history.