Tens of thousands protest Spain education cuts: organisers

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Tens of thousands of people rallied in Madrid on Saturday to protest cuts in public education spending imposed by the Socialist government to stabilise the debt-burdened nation's finances, organisers claimed.

"For sale -- Public education" read banners hoisted by demonstrators who flocked to Madrid from across Spain following a rally call from a top education union, which said between 70,000 to 100,000 people turned up.

Protest organisers in Spain have previously inflated turn out figures and a police estimate was not immediately available.

Protesters, who at times paralysed traffic in the capital city's centre, accused political leaders of "charging education for a crisis it did not create", in a manifesto read by protest organisers at the end of the rally.

Spain is seen by some economists as a weak link the debt-wracked eurozone and has already had its credit rating downgraded by the world's top three ratings agencies.

The Socialist government which is widely expected to be chased from office in November 20 elections has imposed big spending cuts in areas like healthcare and education.

Earlier this month, high school students massed in the streets of Madrid and Barcelona to insist that bankers and not students should suffer from cutbacks.

The teachers, parents and students who rallied on Saturday shouted "no to cuts" as they beat drums and blew whistles while marching through the streets during an afternoon protest that remained peaceful.

The government that emerges from the upcoming election will likely have little room to boost public spending as the country's economic forecasts remain grim.

The government has officially stuck to its economic growth target of 1.3 percent for 2012 despite warnings by economists that activity is slowing and that instability in Greece, which is nearly bankrupt, could spread to Spain.

© 2011 AFP

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