Thousands of people turned out on the streets in Spain to defend healthcare and education and to express their rejection of the government's plans to cut 10 billion euros ($13.3 billion) in financing for both public services to fulfil its goals for reducing the deficit.
The social organisations, convening the protests under the slogan "Don't play around with healthcare and education", demanded at the end of the demonstration in Madrid "another way out of the crisis" in the face of the adjustments implemented by the recently-installed conservative government.
Spain is going through a serious economic crisis with an unemployment rate that affects one in every four workers.
According to the latest Survey of the Active Population, or EPA, which was released last Friday, in the first three months of 2012 some 374,300 people lost their jobs, bringing the total number of unemployed in Spain to 5.64 million, or more than 24.4 per cent of the workforce.
The government of Mariano Rajoy, of the conservative Popular Party, or PP, approved an austerity budget for 2012 that includes a public deficit target of 5.3 per cent of GDP and a further reduction of the public deficit to 3 per cent in 2013, as the European Union's Stability Pact demands.
Besides in Madrid, the Social Platform in Defense of the State of Well-being and the Public Services, which encompasses some 50 social organisations also convened protests in dozens of other Spanish cities.
Rajoy, who Sunday brought to a close the PP congress in the capital, said that the "incomparable" reforms that are being adopted by his government are indispensable for "rewriting the story" of prosperity in Spain.
He added that his government has had to raise taxes because "there was no alternative", although that option was not in the programme that his party put forward prior to winning the national election last November.
Among the new measures announced Friday by the government is the hike in 2013 of the Value Added Tax and special taxes to collect an additional 8 billion euros ($10.6 billion).