Spain Braces for More Protests over Economic Woes
Spanish activists angered by grim economic prospects planned nationwide demonstrations Saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of their protest movement that inspired similar groups in other countries.
Spain is in deep economic difficulty, prompting fears it may need a bailout like Greece, Ireland and Portugal. It is in recession, and unemployment stands at almost 25 percent — the highest among the 17 countries using the euro. One in two Spaniards under the age of 25 are out of work.
The conservative government has enacted deep spending cuts to reduce the national debt, but many people blame those measures for deepening families' financial plight.
The protests began May 15 last year and drew hundreds of thousands of people calling themselves the Indignant Movement. The demonstrations spread across Spain and Europe as anti-austerity sentiment grew.
A year ago, the "indignados" pitched tents and occupied town and city squares across Spain for weeks. Demonstrators clashed with police who eventually moved in to evict them.
The mostly young protestors aimed to occupy Madrid's central Puerta del Sol plaza on Saturday evening and stay for three days. But authorities have warned they won't allow anyone to camp out overnight, and up to 2,000 riot police will be on duty in the capital.
"We are here today to celebrate one year since the ... movement started and though we have achieved some things the situation is much worse now, so we need to keep fighting to get things better and that's why we are here today," said 40-year-old activist Ana Pancorvo who was hooking up with one of the four Madrid marches which were to converge in Puerta del Sol.
Protests were also planned in other European cities, including London.
Antonio Barroso, a London-based Europe analyst for Eurasia Group, doubted the Spanish protests would force Mariano Rajoy's government to change its policies.
The demonstrations "will probably have no impact on the government's strategy," he said in a written analysis.