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Spain and Portugal protesters don't share governments' optimism on economy

Spain and Portugal protesters don't share governments' optimism on economy
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Protests against austerity measures and high unemployment were held in several European capitals on Saturday.

In Madrid around 7,000 people took to the streets, a relatively modest number compared to previous rallies. The target of protesters’ anger was the same, as some illustrated with masks depicting the European Commission president and others.

The demonstrators condemned international lenders for the harsh measures imposed on struggling nations.

The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Saturday that he expected new jobless figures due out next week to be encouraging.

People demonstrating in Madrid were less optimistic: “People are being evicted from their homes, and we have the highest jobless rate in Europe,” said Sarah, a 57-year-old who has been out of work for two years. “The government’s labour reforms make it easier to sack people at no cost, instead of encouraging job creation.”

In Portugal thousands marched in Lisbon and other cities against the “troika”: the IMF, the European Commission and Central Bank.

The protesters also turned on their own centre-right government. Tax rises and spending cuts have been imposed to meet bailout terms.

“We want the government out and our president is the one to blame. He should sack them because they are doing a bad job, spending our money, they are leading us to misery,” said Conceicao, a pensioner.

The Portuguese government has played down an OECD forecast that the country is unlikely to meet its deficit goals because of the recession.

More anti-austerity protests are planned in Portugal this month.

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