“Fire them, fire them!” yelled thousands of Spaniards on Saturday, referring to the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Demonstrators in Madrid – angered over a recession, a 25% unemployment rate (the rate is above 50% for those under age 25), tax hikes, and new “austerity” spending cuts – saw their protests turn violent as they clashed with riot police for the third time in several days.
After crowds had protested peacefully for hours near downtown’s Parliament building, riot police armed with batons moved in at about midnight and surrounded about 300 demonstrators who remained. Some protesters threw bottles and rocks in response. According to the Associated Press, one protester was taken away in an ambulance after being severely beaten by police. Reportedly, two people were arrested, 12 detained, and 12 injured (Spain’s state TV put the number of injured at two).
Demonstration organizers are reportedly planning to meet this Sunday, to plan the movement’s future.
On Friday, Rajoy’s administration announced a 2013 budget that will cut spending by 40 billion euros (US$51.7 billion), nix pay raises for public employees, and reduce unemployment benefits. Spain’s recession grew worse this year after austerity measures hindered consumer spending.
24-year-old student Pablo Rodriguez plans to work overseas after graduating from a master’s degree program in Denmark. “I would love to work here, but there is nothing for me here,” he said. “By the time the economy improves it will be too late. I will be settled somewhere else with a family.”
Also on Saturday, tens of thousands of demonstrators in Lisbon, Portugal, protested their country’s 78-billion-euro bailout and new austerity measures that include social security tax increases and cuts to social programs.
Portugal is faced with a 15% unemployment rate and its worst recession in a generation. Retired banker Antonio Trinidade said that budget cuts have tanked the nation’s economy, and that numerous young Portuguese are leaving the country because they can’t make a living at home.
He stated: “The government and the troika controlling what we do (referring to the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund) … just want to cut more and more and rob from us … The young don’t have any future, and the country is on the edge of an abyss. I’m getting toward the end of my life, but these people in their 20s or 30s don’t have jobs, or a future.”