Economic worries and fears of job losses dominated the traditional May Day marches around the world. Among European nations, Spain is suffering most from the financial crisis. Unemployment soared in the first quarter of 2009, with four million people now out of a job, a major embarrassment for the Socialist government in Madrid.
There were reasons for optimism, though, among marchers in Italy, especially in Turin, where news of Fiat’s tie-up with Chrysler was a cause of pride in spite of the continuing financial uncertainty. Emotions ran high in Switzerland, where anger over job cuts, big bonuses and banking secrecy brought hundreds onto the streets. However, political scientists say the Swiss Left has been slow to capitalise on events, leaving the focus on street protests. Violence erupted in the Chilean capital, Santiago, where an estimated 10,000 people called for more protection for workers in the global economy, following a rash of layoffs in the current downturn. Right and Left united in Venezuela to criticise the self-styled Socialist reforms of President Hugo Chavez. Unions and opposition groups denounced what they called Venezuela’s dictatorship, and called for more freedom of political expression.