Thousands of Spaniards answered yesterday a call from far-right party Vox to protest against lockdown measures and the increasingly beleaguered government of leftist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
Motorists thronged the roads of central Madrid, tooting their horns as others held placards and shouted “Sanchez, resign” and “freedom”.
Vox called demonstrations in dozens of cities with its leader Santiago Abascal, alleging that the government “has been incapable of protecting its people, its elderly and its careworkers” during the coronavirus crisis.
The pandemic has killed 28,600 in Spain to date, one of the world’s highest tolls.
Spain, which imposed one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns on March 14, has started to ease restrictions, but Madrid and Barcelona have remained in lockdown for longer because of more severe coronavirus outbreaks.
The protesters called for Prime Minister Sanchez and Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias, of the centre-left Socialists and left-wing Podemos coalition, to resign over their handling of the coronavirus crisis, and, in particular, the lockdowns and the damage done to the economy and jobs.
“It is time to end the #stateofabuse that Pedro Sanchez and Pablo Iglesias are using to gag Spaniards,” Vox said in a statement, referring to a Twitter hash tag. “It is time to make a big noise against the government of unemployment and misery that has abandoned our self-employed and workers.”
“I came as I believe the government of Pedro Sanchez has lied to us,” said protester, Marina Samber, 51, clad in a green mask – Vox’s colour. “He played with the health of elderly people as he didn’t provide us with masks or security measures to prevent contamination.”
The crisis has turned up the heat on Sanchez – crowds in several cities banged pots and pans in protest on Friday, accusing his team of mismanaging the virus response and shrinking civil liberties through one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns.
A vote to extend a state of emergency to June 6 passed by just 15 votes this week after frenetic horse-trading, as the government pursues a staggered exit from lockdown through to the end of June.
One of the protesters, Oscar de Lolmo, a 51-year-old engineer sporting a watch decorated with the Spanish flag, said that he believed “the government is going to plunge us into an economic crisis”.
Others likewise bitterly attacked Sanchez.
Government ministers were “the assassins of 40,000 people”, claimed Carlos De Lara, insisting the true death toll is much higher than officials say.
Others complained at the continuing general lockdown in large cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, which will start being rolled back from Monday after 10 weeks.
“Small and medium-sized firms are sinking,” said Ignacio Gonzalez, a 23-year-old engineering student.
Vox leader Santiago Abascal, who was leading the procession in Madrid, made a speech that was broadcast on EsRadio so people could listen in their cars.
He said the government was “directly responsible for the worst management of this crisis on the entire planet”.
Sanchez was due to make a speech later that will be broadcast on television.
Protests against the lockdown started in Madrid’s wealthy Salamanca neighbourhood last week, where people started banging pots and pans.
But yesterday’s procession marked the first organised protest against the government since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Vox urged people to protest in every regional capital, and similar car processions took place in Seville and Barcelona, among others.
Madrid and Barcelona are preparing to ease their lockdowns from tomorrow as infections have slowed.
This will allow outdoor dining and gatherings of up to 10 people.
Spain has registered 28,628 deaths from Covid-19 and 234,824 cases. The Covid-19 respiratory disease is caused by the coronavirus.
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