Photo: "Surround Parliament"
Roughly 4,500 people took part in the latest “Surround Parliament” protest Saturday in the Spanish capital to demand an end to government austerity measures, authorities said.
Several thousand people chanting anti-government slogans filled Neptune square outside Parliament, while riot police stood guard to prevent the demonstrators from making their way into the Congress of Deputies.
No violent incidents had occurred between 6:00 p.m., when the protest began, and 9:00 p.m., authorities said.
The protest, organized by the 25S (September 25) Coordinator, comes on the heels of other “Surround Parliament” demonstrations earlier this week to demand more democracy and a change in the economic policy of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
It coincided with the presentation Saturday in Parliament of the Rajoy government’s 2013 draft budget, which Finance Minister Cristobal Montoro said will “pave the way to growth and job creation” thanks to its commitment to reducing the deficit.
The budget calls for spending by Spain’s ministries to be cut by an average of 8.9 percent, with expenditures only increasing in three areas: interest payments on the debt, pensions and scholarships.
Spain said Saturday its public debt will climb to 85.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2012 and 90.5 percent of GDP in 2013.
Spain’s economy has been battered in recent years by the global recession and the collapse of a massive real-estate bubble, which has left many banks saddled with toxic property assets.
The Iberian nation is in recession for the second time in three years.
Numerous businesses have failed amid the slump and tens of thousands of families have been evicted from their homes after falling behind on their mortgages.
Rajoy, who took office in December, has responded to the crisis by opting for a series of austerity measures - including increasing the value-added tax and reducing unemployment benefits - aimed at bringing Spain’s budget deficit into line with European Union mandates.
Those moves have sparked street protests in a country where the unemployment rate stands at nearly 25 percent and more than 50 percent among young people.
Thursday night’s “Surround Parliament” protests spilled over into clashes that left 64 people injured - 27 of them police officers - and 35 arrested.