MADRID (AP) — Disabled people took to the streets of Madrid on Sunday in the latest protest against broad austerity measures, angry over government cutbacks reducing services, closing disability centers and forcing care workers from their jobs.
More than 10,000 people, many in wheelchairs or being led by guide dogs, marched in a demonstration with the slogan "SOS Disability: Save our Rights, Inclusion and Welfare."
Health care spending falls under the responsibility of regional governments, many of which are indebted. Some local administrations have failed to pay medical centers, forcing cuts in services and a slowdown in the distribution of medicine.
Protester Manuel Gonzalez said assistance had decreased and in some cases dried up completely.
"We don't want to be taken back 40 years," he said.
Luis Cayo, president of the Spanish committee representing the interests of people with disabilities, said regional governments were in arrears of around €300 million ($389.6 million) to care workers and associations responsible for looking after the needs of disabled people across the country.
"To some this sum on a national scale may not be huge, but for us it's everything. Without it, we'll simply have to shut down," said Cayo, who said one in 10 people in Spain had some form of disability.
Earlier in the day, many thousands of people held hands to form chains around several of Madrid's main hospitals to show their support for Spain's national health service, they said.
Regional government health councilor Javier Fernandez-Lasquetty said that although the action showed how much Madrid's residents cared for their hospitals, government cuts were needed to save medical institutions from the worst effects of a deep financial crisis.