Spain Protests Loom as Rajoy Unveils Fresh Cuts

by
staff
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is due to address parliament shortly, setting out a new raft of austerity measures aimed at balancing the budget.

"We are all miners," read one banner as the miners weaved through the crowd amid deafening cheers

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is due to address parliament shortly, setting out a new raft of austerity measures aimed at balancing the budget.

His speech comes as hundreds of Spanish miners gather in Madrid to protest against government cuts to subsidies.

Mr Rajoy is expected to unveil a rise in VAT as well as cuts to social security and unemployment benefits.

The measures are in return for a eurozone bank bailout and an extension to Spain's deficit reduction targets.

Eurozone finance ministers have agreed to provide 30bn euros (£24bn) for Spain's troubled banks by the end of the month and to give Madrid an extra year - until 2014 - to hit its budget targets.

Analysts say European leaders want to see a credible Spanish plan for viability and deficit reduction.

Mr Rajoy warned on Saturday that further austerity was on its way, in a country with unemployment running at more than 24% and rising street protests over drastic spending cuts.

On Monday, budget minister Cristobal Montoro warned of an impending VAT rise, telling a business forum: "If VAT was paid by more of those who are supposed to pay, it would not have to be raised by so much."

Clashes

Meanwhile, Spanish miners are preparing a demonstration in Madrid which unions hope could draw at least 25,000 people.

Most of the miners have walked hundreds of miles from the north of Spain where protests outside coal mines have resulted in clashes with police.

The miners are angry at plans to slash coal industry subsidies from 301m euros last year to 111m euros this year.

Unions say the cuts threaten 30,000 jobs and could destroy their industry.

The Spanish government argues that it pays disproportionately high subsidies to a small and unprofitable part of the economy.

Overnight the miners streamed down Madrid's streets with their helmet lamps shining in the dark.

Crowds lined the streets, chanting support.

"We didn't expect such a big welcome," said Roberto Quintas, a miner of 22 years from Villablino near Leon.

"The fact that people are coming into the street and mobilising is a good sign."

Manuel Cinoceda, a retired miner from the Aragon region, added: "The fight is for something just, we are just coming to claim what is ours."

Spain's 30bn-euro bank bailout will be the first instalment of a package worth up to 100bn euros agreed in June.

Eurozone ministers must get approval from their own parliaments and hope to make the payment by the end of July.