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Dozens hurt as police, anti-austerity protesters clash in Spain

From Al Goodman, CNN
updated 8:47 AM EDT, Thu July 12, 2012
  • 43 protesters and 33 police are injured in clashes, Madrid ambulance service says
  • Spanish police use rubber bullets and batons to disperse protesters
  • Miners are protesting cuts to government subsidies for the mining sector
  • Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announces sales tax increase and more spending cuts

Madrid (CNN) -- More than 70 people were injured in clashes in Madrid on Wednesday as Spanish police used rubber bullets and batons to disperse anti-austerity protesters, witnesses and emergency workers said.

Protesters, including a group of miners who have marched on the capital, are demonstrating against Spain's government and the cuts it is imposing as it seeks to curb the country's debt crisis.

Hundreds of people quickly moved out of the area as police moved in, with witnesses reporting the use of rubber bullets and batons by officers.

Madrid's ambulance service said 76 people were injured in clashes at or near the Industry Ministry.

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Miners were among the 43 protesters who were injured, and 33 police also were hurt. Eight were receiving hospital treatment, but the injuries were not serious, the ambulance service said.

A number of miners reached Madrid on Tuesday night after taking part in what has been dubbed the "Black March," covering 450 kilometers (280 miles) over the course of two and a half weeks.

They were joined by thousands of other miners and supporters in a large protest Tuesday night and another demonstration Wednesday outside the Industry Ministry.

The miners are protesting a 64% cut in the government subsidy to the mining sector this year -- from 301 million euros to 111 million euros.

Unions say this endangers the jobs of 8,000 miners and 22,000 auxiliary jobs that serve mining regions where 200,000 people live and depend on mines.

The clashes came as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced an increase in the country's general sales tax from 18% to 21%, as well as spending reductions that include cutting employment benefits after six months.

Announcing the measures -- which are bound to be unpopular with the public -- to lawmakers, Rajoy said they would slash the budget by 65 billion euros ($80 billion) over two and a half years.

Meeting budget deficit reduction targets will require austerity and more efficiency, he said, including cuts to government bureaucracy.

"We will significantly reduce the number of public institutions," Rajoy vowed.

The European Commission welcomed the move, saying it was an "important step" toward Spain meeting its deficit target for the year, Spain's Efe news agency said.

Spain's economic crisis has worsened since last year.

The nation slipped back into recession during the first quarter; the unemployment rate has risen to 24% overall, and more than 50% for those under age 25; and the government has already enacted billions of dollars in austerity cuts, along with some tax hikes, to reduce the budget deficit.

CNN's Claudia Rebaza contributed to this report.

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