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Antiausterity Protests Grip 56 Spanish Cities

By Harold Heckle

MADRID -- Tens of thousands of people marched in 56 Spanish cities Sunday to protest punishing austerity cuts they say will only increase unemployment and job insecurity in a country experiencing its second recession in three years and record high unemployment.

Around 20,000 people marched in Madrid behind a banner that said, "They want to ruin the country. We have to stop them." The rally in Spain's capital was supported by 150 organizations.

Protesters chanted slogans against cuts and waved placards reading "youth without jobs, society with no future." That is a reference to the youth unemployment rate, which surpasses 50%. Spain's overall jobless rate is nearly 25%, and social unrest is on the rise.

"They are abusing the lower social classes," 54-year-old teacher Luis Diaz said. "By backing banks, they are torturing the working class and badly affecting public education, health care and pensions when what they should be doing is exactly the opposite."

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Trade union leaders said the marches warned the government that tempers were rising and a general strike was brewing.

Workers Commissions union spokesman Ignacio Fernandez Toxo said a likely date for the strike could be as early as Nov. 14.

The government has implemented tough austerity measures over its nine months in office.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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