Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy today defended his government’s harsh austerity measures aimed at correcting Spain’s grim economic forecast, one day after tens of thousands of people took to the streets in protest against his handling of the country’s worst crisis in decades.
Mr Rajoy said the measures were “necessary” given Spain’s dire situation, which includes a staggering unemployment rate of almost 25%.
“We are doing what is needed and that means taking difficult decisions,” said Mr Rajoy. “We are doing things that were not in our campaign platform, but we have to do them.
“There are decisions that we don’t like, but I can tell you that we will continue to take the decisions necessary to see Spain through this situation.”
The government’s cuts brought waves of Spaniards out on the streets of various cities yesterday to mark the one-year anniversary of the birth of the “Indignant Movement” – a spontaneous movement that inspired similar anti-authority demonstrations across the world.
A total of 72,000 people protested across Spain, according to the police, with 30,000 in Barcelona and 22,000 in Madrid.
Today, police said they arrested 18 protesters who spent all night in the Spanish capital’s Puerta del Sol area, calling for an end to what they consider to be hardline measures by the government.
A police spokeswoman said two officers were injured early today in Madrid when they tried to evict hundreds of protesters from the large public square. Local media have reported that they were not seriously hurt.
“The night passed without major incidents. The square is completely cleared,” the spokeswoman said.
Spanish media reported that police also evicted protesters early this morning from public spaces in other cities, including Valencia, Zaragoza, Cadiz and Palma de Mallorca.
Protests are expected to continue until Tuesday.