Riot policemen arrest demonstrators during clashes following a demonstration by Spanish coal miners in Madrid, today (July 11, 2012) in protest at industry subsidy cuts that they say threaten their communities. Miners want to reverse the Spanish government’s decision to slash subsidies to the coal pits on which many northern towns rely by nearly two thirds to 111 million euros this year ($137 million) from 301 million euros last year.
Fearing for their livelihoods, they had trudged day and night across the country to bring their protest to the capital and today the anger of Spain’s coal miners spilled over into violence on the streets of Madrid.
As the miners marched down the city’s main boulevards, chanting, waving banners, brandishing sticks and setting off fire crackers amid clouds of thick smoke, they were confronted by riot police.
Some threw and bottles at the police who were trying to contain them. Volleys of rubber bullets were fired into the crowds in response, with dozens of protestors led away in handcuffs, some with blood streaming down their faces. More than 20 people were injured, including police officers, demonstrators and onlookers.
Just a few streets away, Mariano Rajoy was outlining and then having to defend his latest programme of cuts, the toughest round of austerity measures since Spain’s transition to democracy. “I know the measures are not pleasant but they are imperative,” the Prime Minister told Spain’s congress.
The plight of the miners has inspired sympathy across Spain and become a symbol of the nation’s wider troubles and what is regarded as the “unfair burden” put on the middle and working class by politicians desperate to meet the demands of Brussels and save Spain from a full blown sovereign bail-out.
Among the protestors were miners who had marched south for 18 days, many from the mining heartland of Asturias, covering more than 250 miles, in protest at a cut in state coal subsidies that will force the closure of many mines and put hundreds out of work.
Others had staged underground sit-ins deep within the mines and were bussed down from mining towns in conveys converging on the capital against Madrid’s decision to slash coal industry subsidies this year to €111m from €301m in 2011.
In the early hours of this morning the miners gathered in Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol for a vigil illuminated by the lamps on their helmets as their numbers were swelled by supporters and the ranks of those who have already lost jobs since the start of the economic crisis.
“We have to take to the streets to fight because the time is coming when we won’t have enough to eat,” said miner Jose Ramon Pelaz, 38.
Gathering outside the Ministry of Industry later, amid placards emblazoned with slogans against the cuts and the ruling conservative Popular Party government, Carlos Marcos, 41, a miner since the age of 18, warned: “If they don’t pay attention to us, we’ll be back – with dynamite.”
The protests culminated on a day when Mr Rajoy announced a new round of austerity measures aimed at cutting a further €65bn off the state budget within the next two and a half years in a further bid to tackle the nation’s spiralling debt.
Pepi Garcia, a 52-year-old hotel waitress and the only breadwinner in the family who must support two unemployed adult children on her wage of just 900 euros a month, joined the miners protest.
“I’m not here just to show solidarity,” she said. “We have to protest to stop the madness that is happening in Spain.” “Rajoy is defending the banks and the rich,” she said voicing a common sentiment. “He would rather save the bankers than the miners.”
Alejandro Casal, 28, a factory worker walking with fellow union members, said: “This is a struggle for the working class.The people need to be here on the street to say ‘enough is enough.”
Another protestor said he blamed the politicians for all of Spain’s ills that have left the nation sinking into a second recession and with an average unemployment rate of almost 25pc, rising to 50pc among the under-25s.
“Rajoy promised he wouldn’t touch our health care or education or raise taxes,” he said. “The reality is everything is falling apart. What’s happening here is like a dictatorship, it’s unjust and I am so angry.”
Written by Fiona Govan – original source