Protests in Spain show plight of farmers and rural communities

MADRID — Farmers, cattle herders, hunters and opposition supporters descended on the Spanish capital Madrid on Sunday to protest against the environmental and economic policies of the center-left Spanish government which they say are harming to rural communities.

Sunday’s protest was organized by Alma Rural 2021, a platform representing more than 500 rural organizations from all over Spain. Members of opposition parties, ranging from centrists to far-right supporters, were also present.

The protest came as Spanish politicians campaign ahead of snap elections in Castile-Leon, a vast region northeast of Madrid where proposals against depopulation and agricultural policies take center stage.

Carlos Bueno, head of Alma Rural 2021, said the protest was intended to highlight rural concerns amid what he called “ideological” attacks by the government. Concerns ranged from regulating the prices of agricultural products to protecting those who raise cattle for bullfights and more subsidies for rural industries.

Tractors and bull carts led the march along a Madrid thoroughfare, with protesters marching from the gates of the Ecological Transition Ministry – the former Environment Ministry – to the Agriculture Ministry . Among the many banners held by the demonstrators, one could read: “Farmers speak. Who is listening?

Spain’s Ecological Transition Ministry said the country’s budget for 2022 includes 4.2 billion euros ($4.7 billion) to tackle depopulation in rural areas. Spain’s rural world “does not need populist slogans but political commitment and resources to solve historical problems”, he said in a statement.

A row over factory farming has been in the headlines last month since Consumer Affairs Minister Alberto Garzón, a member of the far-left junior partner in the Socialist-led administration, criticized large cattle farms for damaged the environment and produced poor quality food for export. .

His remarks caused a political storm, created divisions within the ruling coalition and led to calls from right-wing opposition parties for Garzón’s resignation.