ANTI-AUSTERITY PROTESTS

Disabled citizens issue “cry for help” against cuts at massive rally

Health workers opposed to privatization plans hold symbolic hospital "hugs"

Thousands of people marched in Madrid on Sunday to protest government cuts to funds allocated to help disabled citizens.
Thousands of people marched in Madrid on Sunday to protest government cuts to funds allocated to help disabled citizens.CÉSAR MANSO (AFP)

"We are the last to receive help and the first to suffer from budget cuts," complained Josefa Benítez, a Paralympics silver-medal winner who joined thousands of disabled persons and their supporters at a march on Sunday in Madrid to protest the drastic cuts in subsidies to services for those with disabilities.

They came from all parts of Spain, many marching on crutches, pushed in wheelchairs or aided by supporters.

Under the slogan "SOS Disabilities," this unprecedented mass turnout of the disabled was called by the Spanish Committee of Representatives of Persons with Disabilities (CERMI).

Some 500 buses brought in around 15,000 people from across the country to take part.

"We refuse to go away. They are eliminating all the achievements made by disabled persons and their families," said Clara, who participated in the march.

According to CERMI, an umbrella grouping of about 7,000 NGOs that provide services to the disabled, some 300 million euros is owed from the last two years by regional and municipal governments, money that goes to pay homecare services and employee salaries in specialized work centers.

In other parts of Madrid, thousands of healthcare workers and their supporters held symbolic "hugs" -- forming large human rings -- at area hospitals. They protested a privatization plan by Madrid regional health commissioner Javier Fernández-Lasquetty to begin outsourcing services at some 27 hospitals and clinics.

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