Tens Of Thousands Protest Austerity In Spain

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Common Dreams

Tens Of Thousands Protest Austerity In Spain

by
Common Dreams staff

Protesters attend a demonstration against austerity on April 29 in Madrid. Tens of thousands of Spaniards demonstrated in Madrid on a rainy day against new austerity measures targeting spending on education and health care. (AFP/Dominique Faget)

Tens of thousands of people across Spain protested Sunday against austerity measures as the country slides into an economic abyss.

Unemployment in Spain is at a eurozone high of 24.4 percent, more than half of Spaniards under 25 years old are jobless, and Conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's new government has introduced stinging austerity measures.

"It's getting worse for us all. People are starting to protest more because it's affecting every sector. It's affecting everyone," said Charo, a middle-aged woman with her children in Madrid.

Unions have issued a call for a new demonstration on Tuesday, Labor Day.

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Reuters reports:

MADRID - Thousands of people protested across Spain on Sunday against government cuts aimed at tackling a debt crisis that has pushed the country back into recession and sent unemployment close to 25 percent.

Protesters closed central parts of the capital Madrid on a wet Sunday to protest against cuts to education and health services the government says must be made to help slash the public deficit.

"It's getting worse for us all. People are starting to protest more because it's affecting every sector. It's affecting everyone"The protests, which were peaceful, were mirrored in over 50 cities across the country as Spaniards grow weary of austerity measures and years of hardship triggered by a real estate crash in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008.

"It's getting worse for us all. People are starting to protest more because it's affecting every sector. It's affecting everyone," said Charo, a middle-aged woman with her children in Madrid.

Labour unions called for large-scale protests to continue in coming months to persuade leaders they should not rely solely on cuts to deal with the deficit and should aim to stimulate growth.

Some protesters were disappointed by the numbers turning out in support, which they said was down to the rain, and fatigue at the length of a crisis.

"People are not protesting in huge numbers; I don't know what it's going to take for the people to really stand up. The disenchantment is so brutal that people will not stand up and protest," said Julian, a pensioner.

Many people waved labor union flags and held banners against the cuts to the country's prized healthcare system that will add to medicine costs, and to its education budget, which will increase the hours worked by teachers and the number of pupils per classroom.

More protests are expected this week in the country's second largest city Barcelona before the European Central bank holds its rate-setting meeting there on Thursday.

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The Associated Press reports:

[...] Protesters in northeastern Barcelona, northern Bilbao, eastern Valencia and many other regional capitals carried banners urging Prime Minister Rajoy to not "mess around with health and education."

"Many protesters believed the government was intent on using the financial crisis as an excuse to sell off essential public services to the private sector."Cayo Lara, lawmaker of the United Left party, said at a large gathering in Madrid that many protesters believed the government was intent on using the financial crisis as an excuse to sell off essential public services to the private sector.

Ruth Colomo, a 39-year-old teacher, said the country's public education system and national health service had been built up over decades with Spaniards' tax contributions.

"They are ours and I think we have the right to fight for them," she said.

Mechanic Evaristo Villar, 62, said he hoped Rajoy would listen to the protesters' concerns. "The government will hear us.
 

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