Spaniards Say Government Went Back On Promises

Anti-austerity demonstrations took place across southern Europe today, from Portugal to Greece. Large crowds voiced anger over budget cuts imposed by their governments or by multinational financial institutions. This is the first time that austerity protests have been coordinated across European borders.

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From Portugal to Greece, the streets of southern Europe filled today with angry demonstrators. Large crowds vented their frustration over a seemingly endless raft of budget cuts. While the region has seen more than its fair share of recent anti-austerity protests, this is the first time they've been coordinated across borders. We have three reports now, beginning in Madrid, with Lauren Frayer.

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LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Tens of thousands of Spaniards have converged on a public hospital the government wants to sell. Austerity here has meant deep cuts to what were once free healthcare and education. Gonzalo Wilhelmi is a railway worker on strike tossing protest T-shirts to nurses.

GONZALO WILHEMI: Here, we are in a public hospital that is going to be given to a private firm. And we are very close to have this process reversed. And that's because of the popular pressure in the streets. That gives us hope.

FRAYER: An elderly man with an IV hobbles out the front door to cheers from protesters.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

FRAYER: Spaniards voted in a new conservative government last year, but many accuse it of going back on its promises. Miriam Prieto is a college professor with a Ph.D. who earns less than $1,300 a month.

MIRIAM PRIETO: If you are going to change the program, then you have to ask again to the citizens.

FRAYER: Spain's government says austerity is vital to avoid an EU bailout, so there's little chance of cutbacks being put to a public vote, says economist Gayle Allard.

GAYLE ALLARD: I don't think they'll go back on austerity at all. But something that would make people happy would be to see that the government is tightening its belt as much as they are tightening theirs.

FRAYER: For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid.

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