Friday, May 20, 2011

Spain protests persist ahead of polls

Thousands of Spanish protesters demonstrate at the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid on May 18, 2011 to protest against the economic crisis

Source: Press TV

Thousands of Spanish protesters have camped out in Madrid and several other cities to demand jobs as well as political change ahead of weekend local elections.

Outraged by Spain's economic crisis and soaring jobless rate, demonstrators defied a ban by authorities and poured onto Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square and in several cities, including Granada, Seville, Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza and Palma de Majorca, AFP reported on Wednesday.

Many protesters held up placards reading "Make the guilty pay for the crisis" and chanted "They call this democracy but it is not", as they tried to draw attention to their economic hardships ahead of the regional and municipal elections on Sunday.

Disgruntled Spaniards, who began their protests on May 15 to demand jobs, housing and "real democracy," have vowed to stay until Sunday elections if police try to use force to disperse their peaceful protest.

Reports indicate that about 15 police vehicles took up positions in and around the emblematic square in the capital Madrid on Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, opinion polls by the centre-left El Pais and the conservative El Mundo portend humiliating losses for the Socialist candidates in the forthcoming regional and municipal elections, as voters are expected to punish them for the government's handling of the economic crisis, including the failure to curb high employment rates.

Spain's unemployment rate soared to 21.29 percent, with 4.9 million jobless for the first quarter of 2011, according to the government statistics published in late April.

In May 2010, the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero introduced a slew of drastic austerity measures, including cutting civil servants pay as part of plans to curb budget deficit from 11 percent a year earlier to within the 3 percent of GDP limit set by the European Union by 2013.

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