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Massive austerity protests hit Spain


Tens of thousands of angry Spaniards have protested in 80 cities throughout Spain against the government's latest austerity package, blaming officials for "ruining" the country.

Protesters flooded Madrid's main square Puerta del Sol and the streets in front of parliament late into Thursday night.

While large crowds also gathered in Barcelona and Bilbao, and the leading Spanish newspaper El Pais estimated that more than 100,000 had attended the rally in the capital.

Marchers in Madrid carried Spanish flags bearing black bows for mourning and banners saying, "No to the cuts" and "You have ruined us."

Isabel Urbelz, a 54-year-old civil servant, said she was angry with the government because it had cut her Christmas bonus.

"I am indignant, I'm angry. Why can't they cut elsewhere?" she said.

Concerns over Spain's attempts to restore market confidence in its economy resurfaced after a bond auction went poorly and its borrowing costs edged higher - even as the country's parliament passed the latest round of harsh austerity measures designed to cut its deficit.

The ruling conservative Popular Party used its majority in Parliament to push through the measures, which include a rise in sales taxes and a wage cut for civil servants.

The government also published details of the (euro) 100 billion ($122.9 billion) financial assistance agreement between Spain and the Eurogroup aimed at shoring up the country's struggling banks.

The Economy Ministry statement said the precise bailout amount "will be known once a bank to bank scan is complete," and that the loan mechanism will be available until Dec. 31, 2013. It also said the interest rate will be variable.

The Spanish government, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, introduced the latest round of spending cuts and tax increases to shave (euro) 65 billion off the government's budgets by 2015.

The eurozone finance ministers are scheduled to hold a conference Friday to give final approval for the bank bailout package.

Treasury Minister Cristobal Montoro pulled no punches as he launched the debate in the morning. A day after saying "there is no money" to pay civil servant wages because recession and a jobless rate of nearly 25 per cent are sapping tax revenue, he said Thursday that Spain simply cannot go deeper into debt.