May 23, 2013
Police block off parliamentWednesday, September 26, 2012
Rage against austerity in Madrid
MADRID — Spain’s government was hit by the country’s financial crisis on two fronts yesterday as protestors enraged with austerity cutbacks and tax hikes clashed with police near Parliament while the nation’s borrowing costs increased in an auction of its debt.
More than 1,000 riot police blocked off access to the Parliament building in the heart of Madrid, forcing most protesters to crowd nearby avenues and
shutting down traffic at the height of the evening rush hour.
Thousands gathered in Neptune plaza, just a few metres away from El Prado Museum in central Madrid where they formed a human chain around Parliament, surrounded by barricades, police trucks and police in riot gear.
Police fired rubber bullets and beat protesters with truncheons, first as several protesters were trying to tear down barriers and later to clear the square.
Television images showed officers beating protesters in response, and a television producer saw five people dragged away by police and two protesters bloodied. Spanish state TV said at least 28 were injured, including two officers, and that 22 people were detained.
The demonstration, organized with an “Occupy Congress” slogan, drew protesters from all walks of life weary of nine straight months of painful economic austerity measures imposed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his solid majority of lawmakers. Smaller demonstrations yesterday attracted hundreds of protesters in Barcelona and Seville.
Angry Madrid marchers who got as close as they could to Parliament, 250 metres away, yelled “Get out! Get out! They don’t represent us! Fire them!”
The protest, promoted over the Internet by different activist groups, was younger and more rowdy than recent marches called by labour unions. Protesters said they were fed up with cuts to public salaries and health and education.
With this year’s budget deficit target looking untenable, the conservative government is now looking at such things as cuts in inflation-linked pensions, taxes on stock transactions, “green taxes” on emissions or eliminating tax breaks.
Rajoy has already passed spending cuts and tax hikes worth slightly more than that over the next two years, but half-year figures show the 2012 deficit target slipping from view as tax income forecasts will not be reached due to economic contraction.
He said earlier this month the 2013 budget would cut spending further in all areas of government apart from pensions and borrowing costs.
Spain’s deficit reached 50.1 billion euros (US$64.8 billion), equivalent to 4.77 percent of GDP, through August, the government said yesterday. Secretary of State for the Budget Marta Fernández Curras said the deficit “is under control.”
The government is expected to present a new batch of reforms tomorrow as it unveils a draft budget for 2013. A day later, an auditor will release the results of stress tests on those Spanish banks, which have been hit by the collapse of the country’s real estate sector. The government will then judge how much of a 100-billion-euro loan it will tap to help bail out the banks. Initial estimates say the banks will need some 60 billion euros.