Last week in Barcelona public health employees demonstrated and blocked some main streets in protest against budgetary cuts. Further unrest is expected in the public sector.
President Mas has warned about the risk of a “Greek“ scenario meaning probably a downard cycle of ever deeper cuts and violent protest.Catalonia is certainly joining the European wave of protest against the gradual dismantling of welfare State. However cuts and protests have been moderate so far.
Government saves, for instance, hiring less employees than those who retire and scaling down services. Last week’s protests have been mild and serious incidents have not been reported. The traditional place of public protest and celebration in Barcelona is Sant Jaume’s square, the place of the seat of the Government and the City. It’s a small place in the old town and a few thousand people fill it.
Socialist opposition accuses President Mas of irresponsible fear-mongering, while implementing cuts for ideological motives. The socialists are accused of being unloyal to Catalan interests.
Electoral results indicate that Catalan socialists are loosing the argument. They were trashed in the last elections, when socialist president Jose Montilla lost by a huge margin against nationalist Artur Mas. Socialists are expected to take another beating in the upcoming municipal elections in May, when they will probably lose Barcelona after 30 years.
When Catalan socialists say budgetary cuts are ideologically based they intend to present them as a fight against public spending. It is a fact that wealthier Catalans manage to pay little tax and fight social public spending, as it happens evereywhere else in the developed world.
However, the fiscal plundering of Catalonia makes Catalan socialists position indefensable. They sound lame to the embattled middle classes that bear the main weight of taxation. Right now, for instance, while Catalan government is forced to cut, there is almost 1,5 bilion Euro that Madrid is witholding, in violation of past agreements.
Catalan socialist MPs in Madrid have a long and consistent record of utter irrelevancy when it comes to defend Catalan interests. This time is not different: the 25 of them act as yes-men and yes-women, ready to rubber-stamp whatever decision of Zapatero, the socialist PM, facing the conservative oppositon of the Popular Party (PP).