Friday, May 20, 2011

Spain: As Unemployment Hits Over 21% Thousands Take To The Streets In Protest

(Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Spaniards angry over joblessness protested for a sixth day on Friday in cities all over the country, and the government looked unlikely to enforce a ban on the demonstrations, fearing clashes.

Dubbed "los indignados" (the indignant), tens of thousands of protesters have filled the main squares of Spain's cities for six days, in a wave of outrage over economic stagnation and government austerity marking a shift after years of patience.

The electoral board ruled on Thursday that protests would be illegal on Saturday, the eve of elections when Spaniards will choose 8,116 city councils and 13 out of 17 regional governments.

But Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has failed to contain the highest unemployment in the European Union, at 21.3 percent, said he may not enforce the ban.

"I have a great respect for the people protesting, which they are doing in a peaceful manner, and I understand it is driven by economic crisis and young people's hopes for employment," Zapatero said during a radio interview.

He said the Justice Ministry was reviewing the electoral board's ruling to determine whether it should stand.


"We are not going to budge from here," said a 44-year-old unemployed man who declined to give his name, during an assembly at Puerta del Sol in central Madrid, where protesters reached an informal consensus to stay in the square despite the ban.

The man was among hundreds who have camped out all week at Puerta del Sol. His wife and daughter join him every day and the crowd swells to thousands every evening. "Our next move is to spread this to the rest of Europe," he said.

Many protesters told Reuters that they are scared the police will crack down, but analysts said police action against the protesters would be a disaster for the Socialists.

Read More from Reuters

No comments: