Spain austerity: Spending protest grips city of Burgos

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Unrest continued in the capital on Thursday night

Protesters have gathered in the northern Spanish city of Burgos amid spreading unrest over costly plans to redevelop a street at a time of cuts.

The project to replace Calle Vitoria with a boulevard at a reported cost of 8m euros (£6.6m; $10.9m) has sparked riots in Burgos and the capital Madrid.

Demonstrators argue the money should be spent on social services instead.

The mayor has suspended the work but argues the project would improve the quality of life for citizens.

A bike lane and green spaces would be added under the plan for Calle Vitoria, one of the city's main thoroughfares, in the Gamonal district.

However, the current four lanes of traffic would be reduced to two and free parking spaces would be replaced with a paid underground car park.

Protests have continued for a week, with rioting in Burgos last weekend and clashes between demonstrators and police in Madrid in recent days.

Protests nationwide

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Protesters are seen here blocking Calle Vitoria on Monday

A crowd of demonstrators gathered outside the city hall in Burgos on Friday morning with placards that read "No to the boulevard".

They were calling on Mayor Javier Lacalle, a member of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative Popular Party, to come out and speak to them.

Spain's Efe news agency put the size of the rally at about 2,000.

A young woman was injured in the head by police at a demonstration in Madrid's Puerta del Sol area on Thursday, medical sources told Efe.

Officers also made one arrest, a police source told Efe, and they seized two bottles of petrol which were apparently being lined up to set rubbish skips on fire.

On Wednesday, rioters hurled smoke bombs, threw chairs from street terraces and burned skips in central Madrid. with 11 arrests and 11 people reportedly injured.

A total of 46 demonstrations were registered across Spain the same day in solidarity with the Burgos protesters, Reuters news agency reports.

Debt battle

Burgos, the historic capital of the Castile region and famous for its monument to Spain's national hero El Cid, has debt of 500m euros, Reuters says.

While the Spanish economy emerged from recession in the third quarter of last year, the state finances are still under scrutiny by the rest of the eurozone and unemployment remains high at 26%.

The government is trying to reduce a large public deficit through cuts in education and healthcare.

"Our city council is one of the most indebted in the whole country and still our mayor is set on carrying on with the project of building a boulevard we do not really need," Amaia, a former Burgos resident now living in Bilbao, told the BBC News website.

"We are in the street every day trying to show our discontent. Lots of cities across Spain have shown their support because, in one way or another, they are going through similar situations."

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