The Prime minister and his government were slammed by opponents and market observers after unveiling a fresh bout of austerity measures that many consider to be deeply unfair and damaging to any prospects of growth. The measures are set to slash a further €65 billion from the embattled countries budget.
These measures included: VAT rising from 18pc to 21pc, For the newly unemployed, benefits will be cut from 70pc of basic salary to 50pc, Certain bonuses paid to top civil servants will be cut and the Christmas bonuses for top public officials will be eliminated, Public administration is to be reformed to save €3.5bn including a drastic cut in the number of publicly-owned enterprises, Ministerial budgets will also be cut by €600m this year.
Prime Minister Rajoy justified the cuts, warning Parliament that Spain’s future was at stake as it grapples with recession, a bloated deficit and investor wariness of its sovereign debt.
“We are living in a crucial moment which will determine our future and that of our families, that of our youths, of our welfare state,” said Mr Rajoy. ‘This is the reality. There is no other and we have to get out of this hole and we have to do it as soon as possible and there is no room for fantasies or off-the cuff improvisations because there is no choice.”
The announcements came on the same day that Spanish miners arrived in the capital after marching for three weeks from their homes in the Aragon region. The march was in order to highlight the mining community’s anger at the government’s plan to slash the coal industries subsidies by almost 200 million Euros, from 301 million to 111 million, a move that has angered many. Unions have claimed that the cuts will threaten 30,000 jobs and could see the destruction of their industry.
As the march progressed, violence broke out between protesters and riot police, causing damage to property and injuries on both sides. The miners have been fighting a protracted conflict against the Spanish police for several weeks with skirmishes breaking out in several towns. For more than 40 days, 14 men in the north of Spain have spent their days and nights in dark shafts, 3,000 feet underground. They are not trapped. Instead, these miners have voluntarily locked themselves in the depth of the mines to protest against the massive government cuts to the sector.
The region of Langreo, Asturias has been engulfed in what some observers have called a guerrilla war. On Wednesday, 200 men fought for hours against riot police squads on the roads and hills of this mountainous region. The miners and their supporters hide in the forest and use small home-made mortars to shoot rudimentary but effective ammunition, ranging from golf balls and powerful firecrackers to pepper and cayenne. The miners block key roads and railways leading into the affected regions with burning tires and hastily made barriers. Police engage the miners in the forests and villages and has seen an escalation in the number of casualties on both sides.
Anger amongst Spain’s citizens is not just confined to the miners. Unemployment is at record highs, the number of the destitute and homeless is soaring and the government’s latest tax hikes have all but choked any chance for growth.
“The government doesn’t have 200 million euro to guarantee the survival of our jobs and villages, but funnily enough, it has 23 billion Euros to rescue Bankia,” said one angry protestor.
Spain and the whole Eurozone is entering a dangerous phase in its history. The people are growing increasingly angry and frustrated over the lack of action to solve the crisis and the increasing reductions to their standards of living. Things cannot stay the same and if things get worse we could see the fire of full scale revolutions spreading throughout the continent.
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