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Thousands protest at parliament in Madrid

27 october 2012, 10:22
0
Demonstrators are blocked by fences displayed by police to protect the Spanish Congress. ©AFP
Demonstrators are blocked by fences displayed by police to protect the Spanish Congress. ©AFP
Thousands of Spaniards massed near parliament in Madrid Tuesday yelling in anger at government austerity cuts that they say are punishing the poor, AFP reports.

Surrounded by fleets of riot vans, the crowd gathered in front of police barriers blocking the road to the lower house Congress where lawmakers were debating the 2013 budget.

Protestors taped handwritten messages to the barrier, such as "Let them give back what they have stolen", in the latest of months of demonstrations driven by anger at the economic crisis and perceived political corruption.

"People in the street feel like (politicians) don't respect us," said Noelia Urdiales, 34, a care assistant. "They are making cuts in health and education, affecting the most vulnerable."

Protestors massed on the Plaza de Neptuno square near the Congress before trying to surround it by approaching from another direction but police blocked their way and the demonstrators turned back.

Clashes with police have broken out on the fringes of several mass protests in Spain over recent months, but no incidents were reported so far late on Tuesday evening.

The new budget includes 39 billion euros' ($50 billion) worth of crisis savings measures, part of a plan to slash 150 billion euros from the budget between 2012 and 2014 with measures including pay cuts and tax rises.

Protestors called for the resignation of members of the two main political parties, the ruling conservative Popular Party and the opposition Socialists.

"I have come to shout and insult them," said Rafael Martinez, 48, an unemployed accountant.

"Spain is suffering from terrible corruption. The same hierarchy is in charge as in the time of Franco," the dictator who ruled Spain over four decades until he died in 1975, he added.

Protestors' anger has been fanned by the offering of a loan of up to 100 billion euros by Spain's eurozone partners to rescue the country's stricken banks, which demonstrators blame for the crisis.

"Everything is made to submit to the international banking system. They are taking peope's rights away and persecuting the poor," said Martinez.

The economic crisis, blamed on the collapse of a speculation-driven real estate boom, has plunged Spain into recession, throwing millions out of work and many families into poverty. Unemployment is close to 25 percent.

The Bank of Spain said Tuesday that the recession continued in the third quarter of 2012 when output shrank by an estimated 0.4 percent.

Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro told parliament Tuesday that the budget would help make 2013 "the last year of recession".

He drew the scorn of protestors by saying that the budget was "the most socially-oriented budget in the history of Spanish democracy".

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