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Protesters at Lisbon's Praça do Comércio

Protesters fear pension cuts, salary freezes and poverty

RobK(Photo: João Neves)

This weekend saw renewed massive protests against the austerity measures imposed by a number of European governments to counter the economic crisis.

In Lisbon on Saturday afternoon tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the central square, Praça do Comércio. The manifestation "against the theft of salaries and retirement pensions" was organised by Portugal's main trades union, CGTP. The crowd was addressed by union leader Arménio Carlos who said the unions were considering a "grand general strike" later this year to protest against the cuts proposed by the centre-right government. The cuts were brought in as part of a 78 billion euro rescue package.

In neighbouring Spain, thousands of demonstrators called for the resignation of conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The initiative for the demonstration against budget cuts was taken by the movement of the "indignants", a loose association of social-media based protest groups representing pro-democracy campaigners, unemployed young people and other disgruntled members of Spanish society. The manifestation, for which no permission was given, took place outside Parliament in Madrid late on Saturday; it was the latest in a wave of regular protests which can be traced back to May 2011, when people in the street began to be affected by the steps taken to counter the European debt crisis caused by the banks.

The government in Madrid announced on Friday that the Spanish banks need another 60 billion euro bailout to be saved - money that will only be made available by the European Union if Spain agrees to further austerity measures, including a freeze of public worker salaries,  and smaller unemployment benefits. Half of Spain's under-25s are unable to find work, and the overall unemployment rate is nearly 25 percent.

The streets of Paris are turning red on Sunday in the first leftist protest since the Socialist government of Président François Hollande took office five months ago. "The protesters want to seize the atmosphere of indignation (...) and capitalize on it," social scientist Eddy Fougier told French website The organisers of the demo are targeting the European budget agreement of 22 September, which they say will draw the EU into "a spiraling depression which could lead to general poverty, unseen since WWII". - (IEDE)

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