Thousands protest in Spain as austerity measures deepen

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Thousands protest in Spain as austerity measures deepen

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Tens of thousands of people have marched through Madrid and Barcelona denouncing further austerity measures announced by the Spanish government more than a week ago.

Officials say the country’s 2013 budget – which will see further tax hikes and public sector cuts – will help to bring down Spain’s fiscal deficit to more manageable levels. But it follows earlier cuts worth billions of euros which have hit ordinary Spaniards hard.

In Barcelona, there were marches organised by around 150 grassroots organisations and the biggest labour unions.

“They are taking away the health system. They are taking away our basic rights and that’s not fair. Those who started the fraud should pay for it,” said one protester.

Retail worker Carmen Lopez joined a similar rally in the Spanish capital Madrid.

“They are reclaiming almost all social benefits. It’s shameful that we are losing everything. We threw out Franco’s government and we’re going to do the same with this one,” said Lopez.

Next year’s budget has already been criticised by the central bank chief, who thinks the finance ministry’s forecasts for economic growth are too rosy.

The budget will see taxes hiked, public sector pay frozen for a third year and more cuts to public services.

Rumours that Spain was just days away from a full sovereign bailout were quelled last week by the economy minister.