Miners in northern Spain continue to resist efforts to break their strike against austerity cuts imposed by the Spanish government. In one recent attack, Spain’s paramilitary police force, La Gaurdia Civil, marched into Cinera, a mining town in the province of Leon occupied by striking miners firing rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the miners.
The Guardia managed to clear the blockades erected by the strikers in Cinera, but it has been difficult for the government to maintain the upper hand as strikers rely on guerilla like tactics to maintain their blockades throughout the provinces of Asturias and Leon where the Spanish coal mines are located.
The strikers, who number about 8,000, have shut down much of the country’s coal production since May 31 when they went on strike to protest the government’s decision to reduce mine subsidies by 190 million euros, or 63 percent of the subsidies’ total.
The subsidies had been negotiated more than a year ago by the miners’ unions and were intended to ease the transition as Europe moves away from using fossil fuels as an energy source. They are due to expire in 2018.
While some of the subsidy money was to be used to keep the mines operating, some of it was to be used to help coal mining communities develop new economies that could provide employment to miners displaced by the transition.
The decision to reduce the subsidies is part of the Spanish austerity program implemented at the insistence of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the European Central Bank.
Since the strike began, the government has used two tactics to suppress the workers’ resistance: it has minimized media coverage of the strike to deny the miners support from other workers and it has relied heavily on brute force administered by the Guardia Civil.
The Guardia, which Richard Seymour writing in the Guardian says has been “behaving like an occupying force,” has been conducting raids like the one in Cinera, but they have met with stiff resistance.
When the Guardia advances, strikers protect themselves with rocks and other objects. Some have used homemade rocket launchers to fend off Guardia attacks.
In addition to their barricades and blockades, strikers have occupied some mines and town centers close to mines.
Recently, Segundo Menendez Collar, a striker who has worked in the mines for 31 years, traveled to London to address a gathering of trade unionists fighting austerity cuts in the UK to tell them about the miners’ strike.
The government’s decision to end subsidies will result in mass unemployment, Menendez said through a translator. “We’re fighting for a basic right to work. These fascists say it’s a privilege to work, but to us, it’s a basic right.”
Menendez said that the subsidies to mines are about 0.02 percent of the money that the Spanish government has given to the bankers in return for their corrupt mismanagement.
He also spoke about the solidarity that the miners have shown in the face of the attacks by the government and said that other workers in the region have come out in support of the miners.
This kind of solidarity should be taking place everywhere, he said. “The crisis that’s happening in Spain is happening all over the world and the response has to be all over the world as well.”
Menendez ended his speech on an inspiring note. “When things go well, we fight,” he told the audience. “When things are just about okay, we fight twice as hard. When things get really tough, there’s only one thing left to do–you fight, you fight, and then you fight some more!
Unite the Resistance in the UK has organized a solidarity fund for the striking miners.