Frustration is mounting in Spain, where riot police battled protesting miners, after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced fresh austerity measures, including a rise in sales tax.
Spanish riot police clashed with tens of thousands of coal miners and public sector workers on the streets of Madrid on Wednesday, as the government announced further measures to contain the budget and manage Spain's deep economic crisis.
Police fired rubber bullets at the demonstrators, who had marched to the Industry Ministry, throwing rocks and firecrackers at police and tearing down a part of the metal fence surrounding the building.
More than 200 miners taking part in the protests had staged a "black march" from the coal mines to the capital. One group from the north had walked 400 kilometers (250 miles) in 19 days. Others had traveled in around 600 buses to the capital. The miners are upset about a 60-percent cut in subsidies for their industry.
A large crowd had also filed through central Madrid in an overnight protest to cheer and welcome the miners, who walked with their helmet lights shining.
On Wednesday morning, Rajoy had announced fresh austerity measures, totaling 65 billion euros ($79.7billion) over the next two and a half years.
"Spain is in a very weak position because of its excessive indebtedness and serious recession," Rajoy told lawmakers in Madrid when presenting the third round of government cutbacks.
The measures include a hike in sales tax - or VAT - to 21 percent from 18 percent. The reduced rate on products such as food goes up to 10 percent from eight percent. Previously, Rajoy had said he would not raise the tax, as it would affect consumer confidence.
Public services will be required to save 3.5 billion euros annually, mainly by cutting Christmas pay and other bonuses. Publicly owned enterprises will be reduced and the number of local councillors will be cut by 30 percent.
Unemployment benefits will also be reduced.
Rajoy's announcement comes a day after eurozone finance ministers agreed to a deal which will release 30 billion euros in bailout funds for Spanish banks by the end of July.
ng/sej (Reuters, dpa, AFP)