Outrage on the streets of Spain after latest austerity measures

At least 100,000 people throng downtown Madrid, some clashing with police around the Congress building

Thousands of protestors gathered in Puerta del Sol, central Madrid, on Thursday night.
Thousands of protestors gathered in Puerta del Sol, central Madrid, on Thursday night.LUIS SEVILLANO

Spaniards took to the streets by their thousands in response to the latest government spending cuts. Protests shook the Spanish capital yesterday, set off by the government’s plan to cut 65 billion euros over the next two and a half years. Thousands of people across 80 cities made their voices heard after the measure was passed in Congress with only the votes of the ruling Popular Party (PP).

The biggest cut in the history of Spanish democracy has unified a range of unions, organizations and social movements whose cooperation would have been unimaginable up to a week ago -- six major labor unions working together for the first time is a telling sign. The government had been aware of the soaring levels of discontent, but the magnitude of the public reaction took it by surprise. Not even the backlash against its labor reforms and the one-day general strike it prompted were as heated as the events of Thursday.

In addition to large interest groups, such as the 14-million-strong workforce, and public entities and administrations, these measures will be sure to hit the pockets of each citizen in one way or another: the VAT increase, redundancies in public enterprises, higher income tax for the self-employed… The welfare state will also be gravely impacted, and some have expressed concerns over rising healthcare costs.

Workers hung a placard reading “screw them” outside Madrid City Hall

The most controversial measure appears to be the cut in Christmas bonuses for state workers, and last week, despite the asphyxiating heat, many civil servants marched against the perceived injustice dressed in black.

The unrest is country-wide, but none of Thursday’s other protests matched the scope of those taking place in Madrid. Numbers differ on the turn out – EL PAÍS’ analysis based on photographs and a fixed human density ratio suggests over 100,000 people participated, while organizers place the number at an astounding 800,000. Outside Madrid City Hall, workers hung up a placard, redirecting the words of PP deputy Andrea Fabra’s colorful outburst (she said “screw them” when the prime minister announced unemployment-benefit cutbacks) at what they feel is an ineffective administration. Up to six people were detained In the capital after a threatening crowd attempted to approach Congress but were met with a police cordon, while violence also broke out in the central Santa Ana square.

Given the current climate, a summer full of protests is a surety. The trade unions are said to be planning a massive demonstration for September, and Ignacio Fernández Toxo, the leader of the CCOO, confirms this. “Today is not just another protest or a final act. There is more to come.”

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS