Notes On A Protest
On September 27, 2012, 5:00 AM by Savannah Cox
As Prime Minister Rajoy pushes on with more austerity measures, more and more Spaniards lose faith in their political system.
It’s Tuesday evening in a working-class neighborhood of Madrid: casually dressed men and women munch on tostadas and sip on beers at cafes, mulling over the day’s events and—at a much louder level—politics. But tonight is not so typical. Trash from purposely strewn-about garbage cans speckles and blocks the roadways, resulting in long strings of traffic and an inescapable stench. As elderly couples remove the pits from their olives, an armed Spanish police squadron stands guard, tall and unwavering as the imposing Cypress trees that frame the nearby Atocha train station.
Throughout the day, as many as 6,000 people have taken to the nation’s capital in order to protest Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s latest rounds of extreme spending cuts and tax hikes in what many consider to be some of the most severe austerity measures the country has seen in decades. The participants come from all ages, ethnicities and locations: from the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalusia to the northern beaches of Navarra, they represent the last bastion of hope in the fight to forge political and economic systems that represent and serve the interests of Spaniards, not simply the demands of monolithic financial institutions and iron-fisted EU leaders in Brussels.
Nothing about successfully navigating this situation is easy, nor is there any kind of political panacea that will get Spain out of its economic sinkhole any time soon. Soaring unemployment rates continue to coat Spaniards in civil unrest and indigence, and the unpopular Rajoy administration has to grapple with the idea of accepting yet another bailout whose conditions and deficit reduction requirements cannot be met without further bleeding an already anemic budget. Meanwhile, Rajoy’s actions—or rather inactions—to combat these problems in Madrid are being painfully felt throughout the country. In Valencia, pharmacy shelves are increasingly barren as they lack the funds necessary to fill prescriptions that their clients need. In Catalonia, secession is the word of the day. For many young Spaniards, the only direction they see themselves going in Spain is out of it. And for those remaining—many of whom congregated on Tuesday with the belief that change is still possible, the system isn’t irrevocably damaged and that increased civic participation and dialogue actually have a shot at saving the country they love from complete collapse—their patriotism is met with nothing but intimidation, excessive amounts of violence and an evasive Parliament kept out of public reach. Said one exasperated woman to Spanish newspaper El País, “Why is [Parliament] hidden from us? Tell me. It’s our house.”
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