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October 21, 2021

Arrests, injuries reported as Spanish workers strike

Huge traffic jams snarled central Madrid Thursday, as Spain’s first general strike in more than a year kicked off with nine people slightly injured in demonstrations, including police officers, the Interior Ministry said, quoted by CNN.Interior Ministry official Cristina Diaz said 58 people had been detained. The cause was not immediately clear. Dozens of union members picketed outside the Agriculture Ministry before dawn, with dozens of riot police on hand. Picketers heckled and momentarily blocked a car trying to get into the ministry. Spanish unions are protesting the new conservative government’s labor reforms and austerity cuts.The general strike is the first one against the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, which was elected in November and took office in December, in the midst of Spain’s deep economic crisis. Spain’s jobless rate is nearly 23% overall, and nearly 50% for youth. Nearly 5.3 million Spaniards are out of work.The Interior Ministry said public transport was operating almost normally in Madrid and Barcelona, but in Madrid’s Plaza Castilla, commuters said they waited up to two hours for public transport. Some bus services which normally run every five minutes had service only every 30 minutes, according to a municipal bus employee who declined to give his name.Madrid’s traffic jams in lasted beyond the normal rush hour, an indication that commuters who could not get public transport decided to drive in. Two main unions – the Socialist-leaning General Workers Union (UGT) and the Communist-leaning Workers Commissions (CCOO) – had made plans to disrupt public transportation and major industry in the early hours of the strike, either through workers staying off the job or through informational picketers asking people to join the strike.The last general strike, in September 2010, was against the then-Socialist government, which also had initiated austerity measures. That strike slowed industry and transport, but much of the country went to work and many analysts saw it as a kind of a draw between the government and unions.

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