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Spaniards Protest Austerity Measures

Labor reforms adopted in 2012 by Mariano Rajoy’s government have helped to spur growth and bring unemployment down from 27% at the start of 2013 to 18.7% in the first quarter of this year
Demonstrators march in Madrid behind a banner reading “bread, work, homes and equality”.Demonstrators march in Madrid behind a banner reading “bread, work, homes and equality”.

Tens of thousands of people rallied in Madrid for a "march of dignity" to demand better wages and job security as Spain's economy improves.

Demonstrators from all over the country marched down Madrid's main avenue, the Gran Via, behind a banner reading "bread, work, homes and equality," AFP reported.

Dozens of trade unions and leftwing groups joined the protest.

Organizers put the turnout at 200,000, while the local prefecture put it at only 6,000. An estimate by AFP journalists put it in the tens of thousands.

Labor reforms adopted in 2012 by the conservative government of Mariano Rajoy have helped to spur growth and bring unemployment down from 27% at the start of 2013 to 18.7% in the first quarter of this year.

But critics say the downside is that many jobs are precarious, with no guarantee of working hours, and are often poorly paid. The minimum wage in Spain is €825 per month.

Dozens of trade unions and left-wing groups joined the protest, which has been taking place every year since 2014, Aljazeera reported.

"We want to show not only our indignation, but that there is also an alternative," Alberto Garzon, leader of the United Left alliance, said.

"We have the ability to build an alternative if we work on a common project, with people coming from all sides to fight against the criminal policy of the PP," he added, using an acronym for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's ruling Popular Party.

Labor reforms adopted in 2012 by Rajoy's conservative government have helped to spur growth after a severe economic crisis.

Rajoy's PP, in power since 2011, won the most seats in elections held in December and June but fell short of a majority both times as voters angry over corruption and austerity backed new parties.

After 10 months of political stalemate, Rajoy won a crunch vote of confidence in parliament in October 2016 to be re-appointed as Spain's leader.

Catalan Businesses Warned

Mariano Rajoy warned Catalan business leaders on Saturday of "terrible economic consequences" if separatists win independence for the northeastern region, AP reported.

Speaking in the Catalan coastal town of Sitges, Rajoy told the Circulo de Economia business group that if Catalonia breaks away from Spain it could lose up to 30% of its GDP and would have to seek readmission to the European Union. Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, represents a fifth of Spain's GDP and has a population of over seven million.

Rajoy compared the campaign for the referendum on independence to the recent vote in Britain to leave the EU. "The British were told that Brexit would be great, and later some of them have seen that that was an exaggeration and that they had been lied to," Rajoy said.

Rajoy repeated his pledge that his government won't permit the referendum, which he has called unconstitutional. "I am not going to authorize a referendum on independence because I don't want to and because I cannot do so," Rajoy said.

The Catalan government has said it will hold the vote anyway by September.

The president of the Circulo de Economia, Juan Jose Bruguera, urged Rajoy to resolve the political conflict by finding "alternative means that are not just black and white."

Also Saturday, grassroots separatist organizations met in Barcelona to demand that the regional government announce a date for the referendum.

 

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