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'Citizen tide' of protests swamps Spain

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Spaniards furious at hardship and corruption scandals in the financial crisis massed in cities across the country on Saturday in a "citizens' tide" of protests.

Thousands converged in central Madrid in a din of drums and whistles, in one of scores of demonstrations called by a grouping of civil movements.

"We have come because of it all -- unemployment, corrupt politicians, the young people who have no future -- it's a combination of everything," said Luis Mora, 55, a construction worker.

He was demonstrating in Madrid with his brothers and sisters who work in the health sector -- one of the areas hit with salary and budget cuts in the recession.

"We have been struggling all our lives and now with one snip they take away everything," said Mora, dressed in a white shirt with envelopes pinned on it marked "20,000 euros" -- a reference to political corruption.

The movement chose February 23 for the demo since it marks the anniversary of an attempted coup in 1981 by right-wing officers who tried to crush Spain's young democracy and restore military rule.

The manifesto said the demonstrations targeted the "coup of the financial markets" which they largely blame for the crisis brought on by the collapse of the housing market.

The movement unites workers in various sectors such as teachers, nurses, doctors, students and miners, with groups such as environmentalists and small political parties.

Spain has been seeing weekly protests against the spending cuts and tax hikes imposed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government to slash the public deficit.

The cuts are squeezing the public sector, while the current recession that started in late 2011 has shut down companies and thrown millions out of work, driving the unemployment rate above 26 percent.

Rajoy defended his government's record during a state of the nation address in parliament on Wednesday.

"We have left behind us the constant threat of imminent disaster and we are starting to see the path for the future," he said.

In Madrid, demonstrators on Saturday converged on Plaza de Neptuno, near the lower house of the Spanish parliament -- scene of a huge protest in September that led to clashes with riot police.

"In any other country this would be of some use, but here it is not," said Luis Miguel Herranz Fernandez, 38, a hospital doctor in the Madrid demonstration.

"The government is not listening to us."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130223/citizen-tide-protests-swamps-spain