Demonstration of farmers and ranchers against the price increase on March 20, 2022 in Madrid (AFP / Pierre-Philippe MARCOU)
Strike by carriers and fishermen, protests by taxis, ambulances and farmers… In Spain, record inflation is fueling anger against the government, which is in a hurry to act as quickly as possible in the face of rising fuel prices and the Energy.
“Contain prices, protect employment”: around this motto, several thousand people marched this Wednesday in sixty Spanish cities, to the call of consumer associations and the two main unions, Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) and CGU.
Objective of these rallies, which are added to a long list of 10-day strikes: to call for “urgent measures” in the face of inflation, which in February reached its highest level in 35 years (7.6%), mainly due to the rise of energy. prices.
This situation “directly affects the workers’ pockets” and “puts the country in a situation of great economic difficulty”, stressed Unai Sordo, secretary general of the CCOO. “The government must be brave” and act “effectively,” he added.
A message supported by several protesters, such as Eduardo Martín Bejarano, a 71-year-old retiree present at the Madrid demonstration. “Heating and electricity have become unaffordable (…) But at the moment, there is a lot of talk but few concrete measures,” he laments.
– ‘Yellow vests’ –
Spain has been facing an indefinite truckers’ strike since March 14, initiated by a platform of independent carriers. This movement is seriously disrupting the supply of supermarkets and putting many companies in difficulty.
Empty shelves in Madrid on March 23, 2022 as a truckers’ strike against high prices disrupts supply chains (AFP/OSCAR DEL POZO)
The government is also facing a strike by fishermen, who paralyzed their work for three days on Monday at the call of a federation of nearly 9,000 boats, and by taxi drivers, who organized snail operations on Wednesday, particularly in Barcelona.
The anger also extended to ranchers and farmers, hard hit by the rise in fertilizer and fuel prices: about 150,000 of them demonstrated in Madrid on Sunday, many dressed in fluorescent chasubles reminiscent of the “yellow vests” movement.
This movement of social discontent, the most important since the coming to power in 2018 of the president of the socialist government, Pedro Sánchez, has received the support of the opposition parties, and in particular of Vox (extreme right), which organizes its own concentrations .
This ultranationalist formation, in full swing, surfs on the discontent of a part of the population, especially in rural areas, accusing the government of “ruining the middle classes.”
An uncomfortable situation for the executive, who has taken multiple measures in recent months to increase low wages and contain energy prices but sees his efforts reduced by the inflationary spiral.
– ‘Acting in unity’ –
Anxious to defuse the criticism, Pedro Sánchez promised ten days ago a “national plan” on the impact of the war in Ukraine, with important tax cuts. An allocation of 500 million euros has also been proposed to offset the increase in the price of diesel for carriers.
Demonstration in front of the Madrid City Hall before the call of the extreme right to denounce and demand the resignation of the Spanish socialist government, March 19, 2022 (AFP / JAVIER SORIANO)
“We are experiencing an extraordinarily complex moment,” Sánchez said during a press conference on Wednesday, saying he wanted to do everything possible to “absorb” the impact of the price increase. The prime minister said he was “convinced” to reach an agreement “this week” with the carriers.
However, the executive remains evasive about the contours and general scope of his plan, with Sánchez seeking to obtain a joint EU response to the energy crisis before Thursday’s summit in Brussels: the EU must “act in a united manner “to” reduce energy prices”, he insisted on Tuesday.
Madrid has been urging the EU for months to change the mechanism that links electricity prices to the gas market. This call has been in vain so far, but Pedro Sánchez – who has been multiplying meetings with his European counterparts since mid-March – expects a turnaround in favor of the Ukrainian context.
What will happen in the absence of an agreement? In recent days, the executive has assured that he will act independently and will adopt measures through a decree law on March 29. A date considered too late by some protesters, who recall that other countries, such as France and Italy, have already adopted emergency measures.