Rajoy doubts on state aid for sick raises Sociaists' ire

PP leader told EL PAÍS that Dependency Law was "unviable" in current economic climate

The government, leftist allies, labor unions and social services providers united in outrage on Thursday over comments made by the Popular Party (PP) prime-ministerial candidate Mariano Rajoy in an interview with EL PAÍS.

Rajoy, who holds a significant lead in voter intention over Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, said that the Dependency Law, introduced during the first legislature of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's government with PP support, "is a praiseworthy objective but unviable today."

"If the PP candidate continues on this path he risks the breakdown of social cohesion," the president of the state social services management agency, José Manuel Ramírez, said. "This represents a backward step of historical dimensions in the constitutional concept of the welfare state." Health Minister Leire Pajín called for the "men and women who have fought for the right to the Dependency Law, which is theirs and guaranteed by law," to mobilize at the polls.

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"That way, we will not have to mobilize afterward." Pajín railed against Rajoy's "lack of understanding over the social and economic profitability" of the law, which employs more than 200,000 people directly or indirectly. "We always knew [the PP] wanted to make these cuts, and now they don't even blush while admitting it."

Zapatero weighed in, stating that the "the last thing that can be touched" in Spain is care for dependent people "who can't provide it for themselves." The prime minister said that 700,000 families benefit from the legislation.

In 2010, the total cost of the system stood at 6.301 billion euros, or 0.64 percent of GDP.

The director of social policies at the CCOO labor union, Rosana Costa said that "the treatment of dependents is not unviable; it is the decisions of government that make it possible or impede it. It is not acceptable that the excuse of the crisis is used in the middle of an electoral campaign to decide whether or not the Dependency Law is a removable right."

In Madrid, PP mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón shot back: "The Dependency Law was the great disappointment of the Socialists' platform because it did not give to the regional authorities sufficient resources to set it in motion."

In PP-run Castilla-La Mancha, where public subsidies have gone unpaid for months, the regional administration says "no law is viable if there is no money" to pay for it. The secretary general of social affairs in the region, Carmen Balfagón, insists the law is being applied but the Socialist opposition says it has ground to a halt.

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