A nationwide general strike fuelled by a groundswell of anger against crippling unemployment levels and severe, ongoing austerity cuts brought parts of Spain to a halt yesterday.
At least 170 people were detained and more than 100 injured in clashes between protesters and riot police across the country. One demonstrator was seriously hurt in a scuffle in Vitoria, as fires raged on the streets of Barcelona.
Large parts of Spain's heavy industry shut down, public transport systems operated only skeleton services, television stations went off air, and more than 400 flights were cancelled in the strike against the nation's labour reforms. Tens of thousands held protests in Madrid.
Spain's second general strike in 18 months represents Mariano Rajoy's first major test of strength since he was elected Prime Minister with an overwhelming majority in November.
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It came on the eve of the nation's budget announcement today in which the 100-day-old Government is expected to slash public spending by 15 per cent, in an effort to keep on track with European Union deficit targets.
European leaders insist drastic cuts must be made this year even though reductions in government spending are almost sure to boost the unemployment rate of nearly 23 per cent, the highest among the 17 euro nations.
Labour unions said millions of Spaniards in the nation of 47 million stayed away from work to protest.
- Independent, AP