Demonstration in front of the city hall of Madrid at the call of the far right to denounce and demand the resignation of the Spanish socialist government, March 19, 2022 ( AFP / JAVIER SORIANO )
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Spain on Saturday, at the call of the far right, to protest against soaring food, electricity and fuel prices, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine .
Rallies were held in the main cities of the country at the call of the Vox party which is surfing on the growing social discontent in the face of inflation, at its highest in 35 years at almost 8% and which is putting many households in difficulty .
In front of Madrid City Hall, a crowd of several thousand people gathered with Spanish flags and chanting slogans calling for the resignation of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. “Sanchez, you’re garbage, lower our bills!”, “Long live Spain”, they shouted.
“We have the worst government possible. It’s not even a government, it’s a misery factory (…) that loots and extorts workers through abusive taxes,” said Vox leader Santiago Abascal , to the cheers of the crowd. “We will not leave the streets until this illegitimate government is expelled.”
Demonstration against high prices at the call of the Spanish far right, on March 19, 2022 in Malaga ( AFP / JORGE GUERRERO )
This government is “taking everything from us”, said Anabel, a 56-year-old protester who did not give her last name.
“They raise electricity and gas prices and say it’s because of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, but that’s a lie. It was like that before,” she told the AFP.
Many suggested the government could lower taxes to help those struggling to pay their bills.
“A country that increases prices in this way and does not help by partially reducing taxes, abandons its inhabitants,” lamented Francesco, unemployed at 53 and who did not give a surname.
Inflation reached 7.6% over one year in February, the highest for 35 years.
Last year, energy prices soared 72% in Spain, one of the highest increases in the European Union, and costs have risen further since the invasion of Ukraine by the Russia.
On Monday, Spanish lorry drivers launched an indefinite strike over fuel prices, which resulted in multiple roadblocks and protests, creating supply problems.
Demonstration against the high cost of living called by the far-right Vox party in Malaga in southern Spain on March 19, 2022 ( AFP / JORGE GUERRERO )
Rising prices also prompted the UGT and CCOO, Spain’s two largest unions, to call a nationwide strike on March 23.
The government is due to unveil measures to mitigate the cost of energy and fuel on March 29. One of its members, government minister Felix Bolanos, accused the far right of complicating the situation.
“They are not patriots, they are troublemakers,” he told Spanish public television, as Mr Sanchez is on a European tour to push for a joint response from the EU. EU to soaring energy prices.
Madrid has been urging its European partners for months to change the mechanism that links electricity prices to the gas market, calls that have so far remained in vain despite support from Paris.