Spending cuts irk thousands in Spain
VALENCIA - Agence France-Presse
Public service employees attend a demonstration to protest against rampant unemployment and biting austerity measures in Valencia on Jan. 26.Tens of thousands of people took to the streets on Jan. 26 in eastern Spain to protest against spending cuts by the debt-ridden regional government of Valencia.
The demonstrators marched in the region’s three largest cities -- Alicante, Castellon and Valencia -- behind large banners that read “No to cuts to public services” in response to an appeal by Spain’s main unions.
Some 200,000 people took part in the protests in the three cities, Spanish media reported, citing union officials.
The largest protest was in Valencia with a 100,000 turn out. The protest in Alicante drew 60,000 people and the one in Castellon over 30,000.
Nurses, teachers, police and firefighters were among those who took part in the protests along with “indignant” activists, who have organized mass protests and marches since May across the country against political corruption, the economic crisis and soaring unemployment.
Unions called the protest after the regional government of Valencia, Spain’s most indebted region, announced spending cuts to health and education totaling 1.1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) on Jan. 5.
Like other Spanish regions, Valencia is under pressure from the central government to help bring Spain’s deficit down and make sure the country does not get dragged into the debt crisis mire that has already forced Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek financial bailouts.
The central government blames the regions for swelling the country’s overall public deficit, which ended 2011 at about 8.0 percent of gross domestic Product (GDP), above the 6.0-percent target Madrid agreed with the European Union.
It plans to introduce a new law which will punish regions that fail to meet their deficit targets.
Spain’s 17 regional governments, which are responsible for health and education, are finding it increasingly difficult to pay their suppliers.
Almost all of the 2,400 pharmacies in the Valencia region closed their doors for several days last month to denounce the huge amount of money which they say is owed them from the regional government.
Several schools across the region are going without heat because gas suppliers have cut them off since their bills have not been paid.
Students have been forced to attend classes with their coats on or wrapped in blankets.