More than a quarter of million people protested Sunday in up to sixty cities across Spain against a deepening corruption scandal hitting the ruling Popular Party, sky-rocketing unemployment and ‘the dismantling of public services.’
Convened as part of region-wide action called the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) for next 13 and 14 March, more than 150 union and civil society organizations that make up Spain’s ‘Social Summit’ demanded ‘a social and participatory democracy.’
Public and private sector workers and their unions, including the UGT, Workers’ Comisiones, USO and CSIT, plus anti-privatisation campaigners, ecologists, women’s rights groups, consumer associations, lawyers, judges, architects, actors and footballers joined the action
‘We say to the government, the time of lies is over; we reject the dismantling of public services (health, education, dependency, social services …), and demand a stop evictions, we reject open complicity between public bodies and businesses… and denounce the consequences of crisis and neoliberal policies on women,’ the organizers said in a statement ahead of the action.
They also criticized the ‘failing’ policies of the European Commission, which they said raised questions over ‘European citizenship’.
Many Spaniards who had taken to the streets carried placards critical of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party, which is immersed in a corruption investigation centered on former treasurer Luis Barcenas and alleged under-the-table payments to party officials while in opposition. King Juan Carlos’ son-in-law, Inaki Urdangarin, is also under investigation on suspicion of having embezzled several million dollars.
Spain’s unemployment rate is at a staggering 26 percent and thanks to a brutal EU-backed austerity programme, the economy is immersed in its second recession in three years, with many young graduates and qualified professionals emigrating to find jobs elsewhere. Public services like health and education are being slashed, even as the banks have been granted some 40 billion euros in rescue funds.
In comments ahead of the action, Workers’ Comisioners leader Ignacio Fernandez Toxo said Spain is experiencing ‘the most dramatic moment since the beginning of the crisis’ and blamed record six million-strong unemployment on labour ‘reforms’ that make it easier to fire workers, as well as punishing spending cuts and tax rises.
‘In our country, in 1.8 million households not a single family member has an income and more than two million people lack any form of social protection,’ he added.
UGT leader Cándido Méndez, said: ‘We must profoundly change the direction of these policies, prioritizing people’s quality of life, jobs and economic growth.’