Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has unveiled $80 billion in new austerity measures aimed at controlling the government's deficit, even as police clashed with some of the thousands of angry miners who filled Madrid's streets in protest against subsidy cuts.
The Spanish leader told parliament Wednesday that the austerity would boost the country's value-added tax, cut wages for government workers and close more state-owned companies. He called the measures distasteful, but necessary.
"We find ourselves in an extraordinarily serious situation and it is necessary urgently to correct it," Rajoy said. "The cost to pay our debt is seven percent, meaning that the sacrifices being made by the Spanish are to pay this cost. We need money to be loaned to us to pay for unemployment benefits, the salaries of civil servants, health or education. We need it because our public spending exceeds, in tens of millions of euros, our income."
The prime minister also warned the budget-cutting needed to be enacted as quickly as possible.
"We have to get out of this predicament and we have to do this as soon as possible and there is no room for fantasies or off-the cuff improvisations because there is no choice," Rajoy said.
In the streets, riot police fired rubber bullets at some of the coal miners protesting that a 63 percent cut in government subsidies would jeopardize their livelihoods. The protesters, wearing miners' hats and carrying walking sticks, set off booming firecrackers.
One retired miner, Manuel Alonso, said the government needs to understand the plight of all Spanish workers, not just the coal workers.
"If this doesn't work, we need to go for more and harder, really, really go for them," he said. "I think they need to see this, they need to see that all of Spain is like this, not only the mines, everything is going badly."