MADRID: Thousands of Spaniards marched in cities across the country on Sunday to decry tough austerity measures, part of a growing protest movement that shows no signs of abating and could culminate in a general strike in November.
Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards have taken to the streets in near-daily protests over the past few months, creating a headache for the centre-right government as it faces regional elections and tries to assure investors the country is stable.
Spanish labour unions said they would call a general strike if the government did not hold a referendum on unpopular spending cuts. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy unveiled 13 billion euros in additional savings in a tough budget last month.
“It's up to the government whether there's a general strike or not. If they were going to hold a referendum things would be completely different,” said Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, leader of Spain's biggest union, Comisiones Obreras. The organisation told Reuters last week a strike could be held on Nov. 14.
Spain is now at the eye of the euro zone storm, with expectations mounting that the government will soon seek European aid to keep its borrowing costs under control.
“It's shameful — we're losing everything,” said Carmen Lopez, a department store worker at Sunday's protest in the capital. “Pensions, salaries, public healthcare and education.They're taking everything.”
Some 60,000 people attended the union-organised march in the centre of Madrid. “How can there be peace without bread?” and “Their plunder, my crisis”, placards read.
“I'm a teacher and they've really cut back in education — there are fewer resources, fewer teachers and more students,” said Agustin Moreno, who teaches in the Madrid neighbourhood of Vallecas.
“We will do everything we can. We will keep protesting,” he added.
Protesters were decked out in the colours of various unions, and many wore T-shirts saying “I used to have social and labour rights”.
“They're taking away help for people who are unemployed, just at the time when people most need the help,” said primary school teacher Francisca Valverde.
Protests were taking place in dozens of cities on Sunday, but there were no reports of any violence.