Public employees protest in the Castellana avenue in the center of Madrid. (Photo: @LosPajarosPican)
On Thursday, various groups of public sector employees took to the streets in Madrid in a spontaneous protest against the budget cuts announced by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday, which will affect their benefits.
Their protest came only one day after a demonstration outside the Ministry of Industry in the center of Madrid by miners who had walked over 400 kilometers from northern Spain in protest against the reduction of subsidies threatening to close down the coal mining sector. Thousands of people joined them in support for their cause and to protest against the government’s austerity measures.
The new package of budget cuts, which Rajoy presented in the parliament on Wednesday, includes, for instance, increased value-added taxes, reduced unemployment benefits and elimination of some privileges for public sector employees, with the aim of reducing the deficit and coming to terms with the deep economic crisis.
The measures respond to a call from the European Commission, after the European rescue package to Spain’s troubled banking sector was agreed this week, to introduce measures in order to reduce the deficit to 6.3 percent this year. The deficit target was increased from 5.3 percent after an agreement in the Eurogroup this week.
Trade unions call for new general strike
The protests show that there is a clearly growing discontent with the government’s measures against the crisis. The two major trade unions announced they will call for a demonstration on July 19.
Also, the federation of taxi drivers in Spain announced on Thursday that it hold a strike on August 1, in protest against increased VAT that will affect their sector.
Regular VAT levels of 18 percent will be increased to 21 percent, Rajoy announced, while the lower levels of VAT at 8 percent will be raised to 10 percent. The lowest VAT level at 4 percent will not change.
Opposition leader "unenthusiastic" and "timid"
While the government is introducing these changes, critic seems to be growing within the Socialist party, the main opposition party, against its leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba for a weak response to the government reforms.
After Rubalcaba’s intervention in parliament on Wednesday, Socialist deputy Odón Elorza was disappointed with the “unenthusiastic” and “timid” reply from the Socialist leader to the government’s harsh measures. Other Socialist deputies shared his disappointment about the lack of a strong reply from the main opposition leader.
Rubalcaba, who seemed to be aware of the critic against his intervention, gave a more passionate speech in his second intervention later during the day, where he strongly criticized the government for increasing VAT and introducing a fiscal amnesty.
This article was translated and edited by Stina Lunden.
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