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article imageSpain: Thousands take to the streets against austerity on Sunday

By Anne Sewell     Apr 30, 2012 in World
Tens of thousands of Spaniards took to the streets once again yesterday in protest at the draconian austerity measures introduced by government in healthcare and education.
The latest austerity measures introduced by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy have caused devastating problems with both the healthcare and education system in the country.
With a $13 billion cut to the healthcare and education budgets, people have had enough.
Many banners in 55 cities throughout Spain read, "It's a crime to cut healthcare!"
Others portrayed a pair of scissors with the word "No" to symbolize the budget reductions.
The latest reforms which were approved by the Spanish government on April 10 plan to scrap free medicine for pensioners (whose pensions have already been cut drastically) and also an increase students' fees. Rajoy's cabinet is hoping to revitalize the economy of the country with $36 billion in savings, with a further cut of $13 billion in education and healthcare spending.
Domingo Zamora told Agence France-Presse, "They're pushing us to the point of asphyxiation. Cuts in healthcare and education, that's the last straw for us, the working class." The 60-year-old civil servant in Madrid further stated, "Without that, what's left? We don't even have work."
A journalism graduate, Alba Sanchez said: "I can't find any work and my parents are suffering because both of them are working in the public health sector. Whatever they've obtained in over thirty years of struggle, Rajoy destroyed in a month."
The protests included Spain's two biggest unions, the UGT and the CCOO, increasing the turnout in Madrid to 40,000. At least as many, if not more, protested in other Spanish cities.
One of the unions stated that predictably, the police estimated far less, as while there were around 4,000 protesters in Barcelona, the police only reported a mere 700.
With unemployment in the country at the highest level in Europe at 24,4% and more than half of Spaniards under 25 jobless, this brings the total of unemployed to 5,64 million people.
Charo, a middle-aged woman with children in Madrid stated, "It's getting worse for us all. People are starting to protest more because it's affecting every sector. It's affecting everyone."
Rajoy’s government is struggling to bring down the country’s deficit from 8.5 per cent to 5.3 per cent of gross domestic product by the end of this year. According to new EU rules, the national deficit should remain below 3%, which is the 2013 target of the new government.
However as Spain slips into the second recession in three years, the people are concerned that this target cannot be met and that the country will be forced to seek a bailout as Ireland, Portugal and Greece have done.
More about Spain, Madrid, Austerity, Protest, Demonstration
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