Spain approves austerity measures

July 14, 2012 at 11:31 AM

MADRID, July 14 (UPI) -- The Spanish government said the nation is in dire straits as it implements a new round of austerity steps to quell its ongoing financial turmoil.

About 100 demonstrators took to the streets of Madrid Friday at the same time Parliament met to basically rubber-stamp the package of tax increases and spending cuts aimed at lopping $80 billion from Spain's budget deficit.

The approval, which came in the midst of an ongoing recession, includes reduction in unemployment benefits and pay cuts for public workers. The conservative government conceded the steps were painful, but not acting now would cause worse problems down the road.

"Spaniards are living today one of the most difficult and traumatic moments of our history, a crisis which has muted into a daily drama for millions of Spaniards," said Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.

The vote was met by angry catcalls from civil servants outside the presidential palace who blocked streets and scuffled with police. Marchers told euronews at least one protester was beaten up by police.

Britain's The Daily Telegraph said the public outrage over the austerity plan could simmer until September, when Spain's main labor unions plan to call a nationwide strike.

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