Spain: Austerity, Indignados And An Ill-Timed Cigar
EL PAIS (Spain), CLARIN (Argentina), REUTERS
MADRID - The showdown over Spain's tottering economy continued Thursday, as embattled Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy unveiled a 13-billion euro package of austerity measures.
After a six-hour cabinet meeting, Rajoy's government emerged with details of the budget for 2013, which appeared as a last ditch attempt to avoid a bailout, Reuters reported.
Facing one of the largest deficits in the beleagured euro zone, Spain will slash its ministry budgets by 8.9 percent and freeze public-sector wages for a third consecutive year.
Tensions remained high following Tuesday’s violent clashes between police and anti-austerity protestors, who tried to surround the Congress building in Madrid in opposition against looming budget cuts.
Spanish authorities have taken a hard-line approach with the protestors, dozens of whom were bloodied and beaten this week during clashes with riot police. Government officials congratulated police for their handling of the situation. Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Días blamed “extremely violent” demonstrators for the clashes.
Protestors shot back, accusing the government of a clear case of police repression. Lashing out at what they describe as the “repressive agents of the regime,” members of a protest group called Plataforma En Pie said the police crack down was “unjustified” and caused “many injuries, including to a man in serious condition.”
Speaking Wednesday from New York, where he is participating in the UN General Assembly, Spanish President Mariano Rajoy criticized the “indignados,” as the protestors have been dubbed, and praised the quiet “majority of Spaniards who don’t protest, who don’t end up on the front pages of the newspapers,” El Pais reported.
But sure to raise tensions was Rajoy himself very much on the front page of the papers. The conservative leader, who has a reputation for high-end tastes, was immortalized enjoying a cigar on New York's Sixth Avenue just as his government prepared to unveil the harsh austerity measures.