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Amid National Strike, Hundreds Of Thousands Protest In Spain

People attend a demonstration in Madrid on Thursday during a national strike.
Dani Pozo
AFP/Getty Images
People attend a demonstration in Madrid on Thursday during a national strike.

Hundreds of thousands across Spain took to the streets to protest the latest austerity measures proposed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The protests were the culmination of a 24-hour general strike that affected air travel and public transportation.

The AP reports:

"As the protests heated up in major cities, scuffles broke out between police and strikers. Hooded activists hurled rocks at bank offices and store fronts and set fire to street garbage containers in northeastern Barcelona, the second-largest city.

"By midday, a total of 58 people were detained and nine were injured, Interior Ministry official Cristina Diaz said."

El País reports that unions reported a 77 percent participation rate in the strikes and in the industry and construction sectors that rate went up to 97 percent.

The Spanish paper also reports that Labor Minister Fátima Báñez said the government would not rethink its reforms.

"The reform agenda of the government is unstoppable," she said during a press conference. She added that Congress had approved the measures with the support of "four political forces."

Bloomberg reports Spain instituted the reforms to satisfy the lending market. It adds:

"'If he gives in, the markets will punish Spain,' said Antonio Barroso, a political analyst at Eurasia Group in London and a former government pollster. 'Rajoy has his back against the wall,' he said. 'He has no choice.'

Union leaders said they would continue to fight the government until it changes tack. The next date for protests may be May 1, Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, secretary general of the Comisiones Obreras union, told a news conference in Madrid.

"'Social conflict is going to rise,' he said. 'We won't stop until the government substantially changes the reform.'"

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.