Italian, Spanish Workers Protest Austerity Measures

Posted September 6th, 2011 at 7:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Workers unions in Spain and Italy organized mass protests Tuesday against tough government measures to overcome their debt crises.

In Spain, thousand of anti-government protesters gathered in the capital, Madrid, and other cities, demonstrating against budget cuts and a proposed constitutional reform to cap government spending. Critics say the government plans threaten social programs.

Spain's Senate is due to vote Wednesday on a constitutional amendment that would limit deficits in central and regional governments.

In Italy, a nationwide strike sought to disrupt public transportation and manufacturing in an effort to pressure the government ahead of a parliament debate on a new and tougher $65-billion austerity plan.

The European Commission Tuesday welcomed the Italian government's decision to tighten austerity measures, notably the decision to enshrine the principle of a balanced budget in the Constitution and abolish provinces.

Also Tuesday, the Italian Cabinet authorized calling a vote of confidence in parliament on its austerity package to speed up its implementation.

Italy's Senate is expected to pass the plan Wednesday, and the Chamber of Deputies later this month.

The revamped plan to balance the budget by 2013 includes tax increases, crackdowns on tax evaders and increasing the retirement age for women from 60 to 65.

The debt crisis in Italy has prompted the European Central Bank to buy Italian bonds to hold down yields and keep borrowing costs from reaching unsustainable levels.

But yields on Italian bonds rose Monday to above 5 percent due to the chaotic manner in which the austerity package has been handled.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero says Spain will continue to finance its obligations on its own, despite high rates it is paying to investors buying the country's bonds. Speaking during an official visit to Turkey, Mr. Zapatero said Spain is strong and will continue to withstand tensions.