Spaniards took to the streets anew Sunday in a bid to stop the Government pushing through a new wave of anti-social, self-defeating spending cuts.
Under the slogan ‘They want to ruin the country. We must stop them,’ unions and civi society organisers protested against the latest austerity measures that ‘will sink Spain further into poverty’ and demanding an alternative for growth, jobs and protection of the welfare state.
Last month, the right-wing government of Mariano Rajoy unveiled a fresh set of austerity measures aimed at slashing the budget by 65 billion euros over two and a half years. The plan involves an average cut of almost 9 percent in the spending of each government ministry next year. The salaries of civil servants will be frozen for a third consecutive year, and although the government has pledged to increase pensions, inflation will eat up any rise and many observers believe the government will actually end up cutting them.
Spain’s austerity measures that spare no-one – except the 1% and the banks, which are in line for up to 100 billion euros bailout – are sending the country ever deeper into recession and unemployment rocketing to nearly 25%, and with debt set to rise next year, are failing even on their own terms.
The protests, the latest in a rising tide of rebellion across the country, took place in over 50 cities with Madrid attracting over 70,000 marchers, according to the organisers.
The protests coincided with the World Day for Decent Work, and in addition to the main trade union centrals – Workers Commissions and the UGT – over 150 civil society organisations participated, including charities and organisations representing military personnel.
Thousands wore white (representing health), green (education), yellow (justice) and orange (social services) to show their concern about deep cuts to these essential public services.
The opposition Socialist Party joined in too, with leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba describing the government measures as ‘anti-social’ and ‘ineffective’.
Unions indicated a possible new general strike date of November 14, as well as hopes of co-ordinated Europe-wide protests against austerity.
The protests came after a new Metroscopia poll shows 91% of Spaniards want to see more protests against austerity and more than three quarters (including 61% of the voters of the government Popular Party) support the demands of the protestors that include a referendum on the latest round of spending cuts and tax rises.