Pressure ups on Greece, Spain
ATHENS / MADRID
Police, dressed in full riot gear, beat demonstrators during a march to the Spanish Parliament against austerity measures announced by the government. More than 60 people have been injured during the clashes. AP photoThe political pressure on two eurozone economies struggling with the debt crisis has reached new heights, with fresh demonstrations and widespread labor actions being held to protest a new round of austerity measures.
Greece faced a paralyzing general strike yesterday as unions took to the streets to protest a new round of sweeping austerity cuts to be brought in next month to unlock vital EU-IMF loans. About 50,000 people joined the union-organized march, which later turned violent, in central Athens called by left-wing and Communist unions. Police used tear gas and pepper spray against several hundred demonstrators after the violence broke out near the country’s Parliament. Protesters used hammers to smash paving stones and marble panels to use as missiles against the riot police, the Associated Press reported.
The strike action is expected to bring the country to a standstill, disrupting flights, keeping ferries in port, halting train services and shutting down the public sector. This is the third general strike this year but the first to test the resolve of the coalition government that took over in June to keep the recession-mired country in the eurozone, as it rushes to finalize a package of some $11.5 billion in extra cuts.
More than 1,000 riot police
In Spain, riot police fired rubber bullets and baton-charged protesters on Sept. 25 in clashes that left more than 60 people injured, as thousands rallied near Parliament in Madrid to express anger at the economic crisis. More than 1,000 riot police in helmets charged to clear protestors, who swamped the Plaza de Neptuno yelling “Shame!” and “Resign!” addressing the government. The demonstration, organized under the slogan “Occupy Congress,” drew demonstrators weary of nine straight months of painful measures imposed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Emergency services officials said 64 people had been hurt during the protests, including 27 police officers, according to Agence France-Presse.
Police said 38 people were arrested after they tried to break down metal barriers protecting the lower house of Parliament, the Congress of Deputies. The demonstration was organized by the “indignants,” a popular movement against a political system that they say deprives ordinary Spaniards of a voice in the crisis.
The protests come as the government is set to adopt today a 2013 austerity budget which could be a precursor to a full-blown bailout. Spain’s eurozone partners have agreed to provide a rescue loan of up to 100 billion euros to help the banks recover from bad loans built up after a 2008 property crash, but Madrid insists 60 billion euros will be enough. The basic outline for the budget is expected to enact spending cuts and tax increases worth a combined 39 billion euros. Unemployment is close to 25 percent.