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Tens of thousands in austerity protest in Spain

By Harold Heckle

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, May 15 2011 12:40 p.m. MDT

Hundred of people protest during a rally called by "Real Democracy Now" in Madrid, Sunday, May 15, 2011. Spanish university students and youth groups were protesting against a youth unemployment rate of 40 percent and austerity measures taken to end Spain's debt crisis. Banner reads 'We are not merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers'

Arturo Rodriguez, Associated Press

MADRID — Tens of thousands of students, social groups and unemployed Spaniards rallied in more than 50 cities on Sunday to protest against government austerity measures and the role banks and political parties have played in the financial crisis.

The events were organized by two activist groups under the banner of "We aren't merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers."

Protesters in Madrid marched from Cibeles square to city hall in Puerta del Sol, many wearing yellow T-shirts distributed by the Youth Without a Future group, which was founded in early April at the city's university and helped organize the rallies.

"We the unemployed, the badly paid, the subcontracted in precarious jobs, the youth of Spain, want change and a future with dignity," said Ines Bajo, 24, who is unemployed.

Other large marches took place in the cities of Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Bilbao and Zaragoza.

"I have several degrees, speak many languages and still get paid a miserable salary," said Cristina Corbera, 25, in Madrid, adding she had finally got a job two months ago after looking for work for more than a year.

She declined to say where she worked because of fear her employer might react badly to her comments, she said.

"For those who say that Spaniards are passive, here's evidence that things are starting to change," Luis Morago, 44, who is unemployed.

Spain is saddled with the eurozone's highest jobless rate of 21.3 percent with a record 4.9 million people unemployed and a sluggish economy that grew by 0.3 percent in the first quarter of the year.

The government forecasts growth of 1.3 percent this year, but the central bank and others say that prediction is optimistic.

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