Spanish coal miners bring message of defiance to Madrid: As Mariano Rajoy announces new austerity measures, capital welcomes miners fighting huge cuts in subsidies

Spanish coal miners bring message of defiance to Madrid

As Mariano Rajoy announces new austerity measures, capital welcomes miners fighting huge cuts in subsidiesSpanish miner

A miner sings during the protest march to Spain’s minister of industry building in Madrid. Photograph: Andres Kudacki/AP

They came with helmets on their heads and the worried look of men with no future on their faces. But the Spanish coal miners who marched through Madrid on Wednesday were clear that they would not give up on their life-or-death struggle for the future of their collieries.

“We’ll keep going and, if nothing happen, the fight will just get harder,” said Jórge Exposito, a helmeted miner from Mieres, northern Spain, as fireworks crackled and twitchy riot police stood by with shields and guns loaded with rubber bullets.

A tense standoff saw occasional police charges, rubber bullets and demonstrators hurling objects at police. At least 76 people were injured in clashes along Madrid’s central Castellana Boulevard, but the march on Madrid eventually ended with nothing more violent than a rousing sing-song.

The miners had brought with them the dust of Castile, the sun-baked central region of Spain that 200 of them had walked through on their 400km, three-week march to reach the capital. Many had wept when they were greeted by crowds of supporters in Madrid.

Thousands more came in buses that made the long trip from the northern regions of Asturias and Leon or the collieries of eastern Aragon and southern Puertollano.

Industry minister José Manuel Soria declined to meet the protesters and the ministry itself was protected with temporary fencing.

The miners had arrived in the hope that the centre-right government of Mariano Rajoy could be persuaded to return to a programme of subsidies to mining companies that has been dramatically chopped by 60% this year.

Instead, the prime minister devoted the morning to announcing a further austerity package to save the government €65bn (£51bn) over the next two and a half years.

“All we are asking for is that they stick to the agreement,” said Isidro Castro, a former miner from the northern region of Leon. “That is not so difficult.

“If the mining companies don’t get their subsidies this year, then there will be nothing to negotiate next year as they will have to close,” he said.

Celestino Duran, a miner from the Sant Lucía de Gordón coalfield, said: “Now they can see the support that we have, then may be they will change.

“If the mine closes then the whole community will disappear. We saw that happen in the neighbouring colliery at Cistierna. They closed it and a community of 2,000 people now has just 150 inhabitants.”

With Spanish unemployment at 24%, few miners believe they can find jobs elsewhere. “I have two children. They are already taking away grants for school and university,” said Duran. “If there are no jobs in the mine, what future will they have?”

Angelita Arias, from Santa LucÌa de Gordon. said: “The trouble is that everyone depends on the mine and if it closes then the town dies. My daughter used to work for the regional television station, but she was laid off. Now she has opened a bar, but, if the mine closes, she will have to close that, too.”

Tens of thousands of people turned out on Tuesday night to greet the miners who, with their helmet lanterns ablaze, strode into the city’s central Puerta del Sol, famous as the centre of Spain’s indignado protest movement.

Now many see the miners as in the vanguard of the fight against austerity measures which were made still more drastic on Wednesday and threaten to deepen a double-dip recession.

But the government argues that Spain’s coal mines are making losses and European Union rules do not allow it to subsidise them much longer.

“We think they should keep the mines running because who knows what might happen to the supplies from other countries?” said Exposito. “If they suddenly dry up, for whatever reason, Spain will need its own stock of coal.

“Mining is all we know. My wife, for example, is the daughter, granddaughter, sister, sister-in-law and wife of miners.”

But the chances that their children would also be miners are slim. “The future is as black as coal,” he admitted.


About ottwf

The capitalistic and imperialistic system and its systematic aims: profit and power over others, still dominates our world and not the aims of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as 1948 agreed! After the world-economic-crisis after 1929 and the following World-War the world hat decided with agreeing the Universal Declaration of Human rights, to create a new world order; conflicts should be solved with peaceful means, not nations and their power, but the dignity of human beings around the world should be the aim of the policies and the economy, of every state and the community of states. But soon after the end of the war, when the victims and destruction were forgotten, all continued as before, with all risks, we had seen before. The split in rich an poor is getting bigger and bigger. We also overuse our global environment already, even if the big majority of mankind still lives in poverty! We are not victims, this world is men-made and be changed from men and women! It will be possible, if those, who do not want or serve (because of system-pressure) profits first, but want for themselves and everybody a life in human dignity unite and develop in a global base-democratic movement a common vision for our world, and learn, how to make this vision real. We need for it a big empowerment of many, many common men and women and their activities. Our chances are because of new communication technologies, of common languages, of the level of education and the mixture of people from different backgrounds better then ever. The occupy-movement is a good start for such a global movement. We support it and try to contribute to its success! We choose news and make comments and so try to unite people for an Occupy-Think-Tank: Its tasks: creating a news-network, self-education, working on global-reform programs and learning to organize projects for those, who are suffering. Join us, so that we can build teams for these aims for all subjects and countries as a base for the unification. We have Wan(n)Fried(en) in our name, because it means When peace and it is a modification of the name of the town our base is, in Wanfried, a small town in the middle of Germany, where we can use a former factory for our activities. Our telefon: 0049-5655-924981, mobil: 0171-9132149, email:
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