General Strike in Spain over government austerity measures

And this is the easy part.


Spanish workers angry at a labour reform the government calls an "unstoppable" necessity staged a general strike on Thursday, bringing factories and ports to a standstill and igniting flashes of violence on the streets.

Hundreds of thousands attended largely peaceful marches throughout Spain, waving red flags and beating drums against the budget cuts of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who was elected by a landslide only four months ago on a mandate to dig the country out of a debt crisis that has unnerved its European neighbours.

Police fired rubber bullets to disperse crowds in downtown Barcelona after hooded youths threw rocks at windows and set rubbish bins alight in Spain's second city, where - as in much of Spain - unemployment has been devastating among the young.

In Madrid, demonstrators chanted slogans and carried banners protesting against the conservative government's measures, which will make it cheaper for companies to fire workers and will dismantle a nationwide system of collective pay bargaining.

"We're here because we are really angry," said Alba Valle, a 23-year-old media technician in the capital who, like almost one young Spaniard in two, cannot find work.

"It's a step backwards for the country."

The Spanish unemployment rate is officially 23% while youth unemployment is at 50%. The big battle will come when Prime Minister Rajoy's center right coalition gets into the real budget cutting the must be done. And with Spain slipping into another recession, it's only going to get more difficult to slash spending.

Greece will hold elections next month and it will be interesting to see if the Socialists run on an austerity program. They've pledged to the EU that they will make the necessary cuts but the temptation might be too great to resist and the left could reneg.

Both nations will be sorely tested to stick with their plans and resist the pressure from the left.

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