Business, Economics and Jobs

Economic protests draw tens of thousands across Spain


Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the euro zone leaders' agreed 'Pact For The Euro' on June 19, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. Thousands across Spain protested how the country's economic crisis is being handled.


David Ramos

Tens of thousands have turned out in Spain to protest the government's tough austerity measures, imposed as the country's finances worsen and unemployment hovers at one in four.

In Madrid, the capital, an estimated 40,000 people gathered on the central Puerta del Sol square, marking one year since the "indignado" movement — replicated in cities worldwide and also known as 15-M — was launched, DPA reported.

The protest was reportedly echoed in about 80 other Spanish cities, including Barcelona — where an estimated 22,000 turned out — Bilbao, Malaga and Seville.

The Associated Press reported that despite an edict not to remain out overnight in Madrid, demonstrators remained at the Puerta del Sol while more than 2,000 riot police made no effort to disperse them.

They carried banners with slogans such as "They do not represent us" and "We will not pay for your (economic) crisis," the AP wrote.

"Banks and big companies keep all the money, while we have no jobs," one woman said.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government has sought to tackle Spain's worsening economic prospects with labor reforms making it cheaper for employers to fire workers, and measures to rescue ailing banks while authorities are cutting spending on health and education.

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Spain is in recession, with its 25 percent unemployment rate the highest among the 17 countries using the euro. One in two Spaniards under the age of 25 are out of work, according to the AP.

Fears exist that a bailout similar to those helping Greece, Ireland and Portugal may be needed. 

The AP cited Antonio Barroso, a London-based Europe analyst for Eurasia Group, as saying the demonstrations "will probably have no impact on the government's strategy."

"We cannot allow fooling around with rocks or molotov cocktails to push up bond yields," the Guardian quoted secretary of state for security, Ignacio Ulloa, as saying after Spain sent 8,000 police to protect the 22 board members of the European Central Bank meeting at a luxury Barcelona hotel earlier this month.

Rajoy's government also suspended Europe's Schengen agreement so that it could reintroduce border controls to keep foreign protesters away, and spent €1 million ($1.29 million). 

"Only with security will Spain get itself out of this difficult situation," Ulloa said.

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