Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Madrid to draw attention to the depopulation of Spain’s rural areas. Critics say politicians are using the crisis in a bid to win votes.
Demonstrators held placards that read "Equality for villages and cities," and "Spain needs rural life," as they marched through the streets of the Spanish capital, Madrid.
The demonstration under the slogan "The Revolt of the Emptied Spain" was planned by grassroots groups from Spain's rural regions, aimed at highlighting issues for rural voters.
Police counted attendees at 50,000, while organizers reported 100,000 participants.
Ninety percent of the country's population of 46 million is now concentrated in 30 percent of its land area — mostly in Madrid and areas along the coastline.
Risk of depopulation
The government has reported population density in 48 percent of all municipalities to be less than 12.5 inhabitants per square kilometer. The European Union classifies this as low density and at risk of future depopulation.
Of the 350 parliamentary seats at stake in the April 28 election, 101 represent sparsely populated provinces
In a 2018 report by the Economic and Social Council of Spain, a body advising the government on economic and labor issues, it reported around 3,900 villages have fewer than 500 residents.
Of those, close to one-third have fewer than 100 inhabitants and face "maximum risk of extinction," it read.
Teruel, in the east of the country, and Soria, in north-central Spain, have been particularly affected by the emigration.
Read more: Spain to hold early elections
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's socialist government announced Friday it would respond to the crisis with a strategy consisting of 70 different measures, including better internet connectivity, professional training and creating new job opportunities in rural areas, especially for young people.
Critics have accused the government of vying for key votes ahead of the April 28 election.
jlw/kl (AFP, dpa, AP)