Spain’s ‘indignant’ converge on Madrid


Two months after launching movement against economic crisis, thousands of protesters gather in city from around Spain

Two months after they launched a movement against the economic crisis and soaring employment in Spain, protestors who call themselves the “indignados” have converged on Madrid.
The “indignados” meaning the indignant or outraged, first began demonstrating before the regional elections in May in response to the perceived failure of politicians to represent the electorate.

Protestors carrying sleeping bags and grounsheets had set off from cities across the country at the end of June, including Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia and Bilbao.

Many marchers used the opportunity to stop on the way to Madrid by holding public meetings to spread their message of outrage at unemployment, welfare cuts and corruption.

Residents of Madrid, who sympathised with the protestors, joined the marchers on Saturday as they reached the outskirts of the Spanish capital to make their way to a rally at the Puerta del Sol Square.

Several dozen demonstrators stopped outside Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s official residence just north of Madrid to wave banners and chant slogans.

“We’re here to keep up the momentum of the protests,” said Ivan Gracia, a student who came by bus from the northern city of Zaragoza and planned to spend the night in the square.

Broad support
The protesters have won broad public support in their fight against austerity measures introduced by the Spanish government, with 200,000 people attending rallies across the country.

To meet with the extra demand of protestors, organisers set up more tents, tarpaulins and stands
in the square.

Rafael Rodriguez Ballesteros, who is an unemployed chef, has been busy preparing thousands of meals.

“We have returned to show that the movement is not dead, that it’s still alive, despite the holidays,” he said.

The movement, although it has been able to gather large numbers of supporters, has been criticised for being too vague in its demands – but demonstrators say there are issues that everyone agrees on.

“In two months, we have had some good responses,” said demonstrator Fernando Carasa.

“We have stopped about 60 expulsions, created social pressure and achieved a bigger mobilisation than any political party.”

Soaring unemployment

The political leaders of the eurozone’s fourth largest economy have worked hard to convince investors the country will not follow Greece, Portugal and Ireland in needing a bailout.

But Spaniards say while this has been happening, their own worries are being ignored.

Unemployment has soared to 14-year highs and almost half of under-25s are out of work.

Banks have cut off credit lines, consumer prices are rising faster than the regional average, investment has been slashed and house prices have plummeted.

Earlier this month, the socialist government set new limits on the amount of money that banks can reclaim from mortgage defaulters in what was seen as an effort to appease the protesters.

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