Thousands march in Spain to protest austerity cuts

Protesters hold a banner reading "Public healthcare for everyone" and "General strike" as they march against austerity measures announced by the Spanish government and to defend the public healthcare system, in Madrid, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012. AP Photo/Andres Kudacki

MADRID Several thousand people are marching in downtown Madrid to protest austerity measures they say will lead to cuts in cherished national health care and the privatization of public services.

Marching under banners reading "Neither cuts nor privatizations," many protesters were civil servants hit with a wage freeze next year.

Spain is experiencing its second recession in three years, is burdened with an unemployment rate of nearly 25 percent and social unrest is on the rise.

The number of people registered unemployed rose to 4.71 million in September as the tourism season ended and businesses let workers go.

The government has pushed through nine straight months of tough austerity measures which have prompted Spain's 17 regional governments, some of which are heavily indebted, to slash spending in health care and education.

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