29th Oct 2016

Anti-austerity protests in Spain turn violent

  • Riot police in Madrid fired rubber bullets into the crowd (Photo: Fotomovimiento)

Protesters clashed with riot police on the streets of Madrid on Tuesday (25 September) as Spain braces itself for a fresh round of spending cuts linked to a potential bailout.

Thousands of people marched toward the Spanish parliament asking for the government to resign.

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The initially peaceful demonstration turned violent when protesters tried to tear down barricades and threw rocks at riot police, which responded with rubber bullets. Police said at least 22 people were arrested and dozens injured.

Violent protests are new to Spain, where people have in the past taken to streets in peaceful rallies, as with the "indignados" movement.

The violence on Tuesday comes ahead of a fresh round of austerity measures to be unveiled on Thursday in what the European Commission has called an "upgrade" of spending cuts already announced earlier this year.

The Spanish government is trying to implement the new cuts in what is seen as a pre-emptive move, so that if or when it asks the eurozone to buy its bonds, the attached conditions will not go any further than demands to stick to its existing programme.

The European Central Bank (ECB) earlier this month announced it would buy unlimited amounts of bonds from countries under market pressure, but only if a formal request is made and a memorandum of understanding is signed on how reforms will be implemented.

Madrid has not yet formally requested such a move, but the fresh spending cuts are seen as an indication it will do so soon.

"The ECB action can only be the bridge to the future. The project must be completed through decisive actions by government both individually and collectively," ECB chief Mario Draghi said on Tuesday in Berlin.

Meanwhile, in Greece, trade unions have called for a general strike on Wednesday in the biggest protest action in five months.

Public services are to be shut down, including airports, ferries and trains. The strike is directed against €11.5 billion worth of spending cuts demanded by international lenders in return for the next tranche of the Greek bailout.

The final details of the cuts have still not been agreed, with trade unions rebelling against expected wage and pension cuts.

Similar anti-austerity protests took place also in Portugal last week, with the government forced to repeal a controversial move for employers to pay smaller social contributions and for workers to pay more.

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