Thousands flock to anti-austerity protest in Madrid

Thousands of people took part in a “march for dignity” in Madrid on Saturday to protest against austerity measures on the eve of a closely-watched regional election in southern Spain. “Bread, work, a roof and dignity” read a large banner as a group of demonstrators made their way through one of the richer areas of the capital before joining up with other protesters at the Plaza de Colon square. Sunday’s vote in Andalusia, one of the poorest parts of the country, is seen as a test of the national mood ahead of Spain’s most unpredictable general election in decades.

We have mobilised here for the young people because in Extremadura youth unemployment is almost 60 percent.

28-year-old Antonio Laso

The demonstrators were voicing their discontent with the painful austerity policies that have led the government to make spending cuts to the tune of $162 billion between 2012 and 2014. Education, public health, and social benefits have all been affected. Spain saw growth of 1.4 percent in 2014 but after an economic crisis that lasted six years, the economy remains battered with an unemployment rate of 23.7 percent. Half of all young people between the ages of 16 and 25 are without jobs. Both the left-wing anti-austerity Podemos party and Ciudadanos, a centre-right party which also rails against corruption and unemployment, are contesting Sunday’s election.