Spain's paramilitary police protest for better pay
Several thousand Spanish paramilitary police officers protested Saturday in Madrid over salaries and work conditions that they say should at least match the national police force.
Madrid's top court allowed the officers to hold the demonstration despite normally being forbidden from protesting and opposition from the interior ministry.
Dressed in civilian clothes, the officers began their protest at midday, shouting "no to budget cuts" and holding banners with statements such as "that's enough mistreatment".
"We are the ones who have fought terrorism (the Basque separatist group ETA) far better than the national police, yet it seems the interior minister is marginalising us", one 62-year-old member of the guards' reserve brigade said.
Spain's civil guard, a police force with a military status like the French gendarmes or Italian Carabinieri, want work conditions on par with the national police, which has a civil status and less difficult working hours.
The guards' frustrations have been exacerbated along with other civil servants whose wages have fallen by an average of five percent since the start of the summer as a result of austerity measures.
The Socialist government in May passed a 15-billion-euro (19-billion-dollar) austerity plan aimed at shoring up Spain's public finances amid investor concerns Spain could follow Greece into a financial crisis.
In January Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had already announced a 50-billion-euro package of spending cuts designed to slash the public deficit to the eurozone's three percent limit of gross domestic product by 2013.
© 2010 AFP