The Popular Party (PP) government is extremely concerned by the student protests taking place in Valencia and is keen to quell the unrest, not least to protect its international image.
“Spain is not Greece,” said a government official of the need to avoid further violent clashes between students protesting spending cuts in the Valencia regional education system and police, who have been accused of over-zealousness in their tackling of youths demonstrating in the city’s streets.
On Tuesday, a week after the first protests erupted outside the Lluís Vives public school after a minor was arrested, police kept their batons sheathed under orders from the authorities. The new approach is designed to convey an image of strength but without the excesses of the past few days, during which many schoolchildren found themselves on the business end of the police’s trade tools and the chief of police in Valencia, Antonio Moreno, described the protesting students as “the enemy.”
The government is striving to douse the flames of unrest before fires are lit across Valencia for the annual Fallas festival, a mixture of fireworks, alcohol and music that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.
“Spaniards cannot transmit an image of the country that is not how it is,” said Mariano Rajoy, returned from London where the international press reaction will not have escaped him. In Madrid, Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz admitted there had been “some excesses and disproportionate action,” during the demonstrations.
On the floor of Congress there was indignation at comments made by Education Minister José Ignacio Wert, who accused the Socialists of “siding with violent protestors and those that infringe the law.” Former Socialist Health Minister Leire Pajín replied that the PP had used its return to power to diminish rights and had “violently suppressed” the protests.
On Wednesday in Valencia the marches continued but there were no instances of clashes between police and protestors.