A general strike was held in Spain on Wednesday to protest austerity measures implemented by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government.
Labor unions described the turnout for the second general strike since Rajoy took office last December as "massive," while government spokespersons said roughly three dozen people were injured.
The labor federations behind the protests - the CCOO, UGT and USO - said more than 80 percent of workers had heeded the strike during the night shift and in the early hours of Wednesday.
The heads of the UGT, Candido Mendez, and the CCOO, Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, said turnout was bigger than in the March 29 general strike to protest a labor overhaul.
Fernandez Toxo said the strike was covering nearly all of the Iberian Peninsula, referring to protests in neighboring Portugal, which has also been hit by a severe economic crisis and austerity measures.
Workers also protested Wednesday in Italy, Belgium, Greece and France.
Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz had said early in the day that the strike was unfolding with "complete normality," yet police spokespersons told Efe that more than 80 people had been arrested as of early afternoon Wednesday in different strike-related incidents.
A total of 34 people also had been injured in different altercations, including 18 police officers.
According to the unions, the strike was being widely heeded in the transportation sector (between 90-95 percent), compared with 52 percent of central government employees, 62 percent of regional government personnel and 75 percent of local government workers.
Roughly 75 percent of teachers at both public and private schools have gone on strike and 56 percent of health workers.
In downtown Madrid, demonstrators cut off traffic in several parts of the Gran Via thoroughfare and clashes broke out between union members and university students and the police.
Stores along Gran Via were closed and many of their facades bore signs with strike slogans such as "They're taking away our future" and "There are culprits, there are solutions."
On that same street, near the Cibeles Square, police clashed with several hundred members of the "indignant" protest movement. Government spokespersons said 15 people received medical treatment in that incident for minor injuries: nine demonstrators and six police officers
The leader of the CEOE business federation, Juan Rosell, said the general strike is "untimely and unnecessary," adding that it will achieve little domestically and hurt the country's image abroad.
The unions say the government's austerity measures aimed at bringing Spain's budget deficit in line with European Union mandates will only deepen the country's recession and further exacerbate its severe unemployment problem.
Spain has been hard hit by the collapse of a long-building housing bubble that left many Spanish banks saddled with toxic assets and created an overhang of unsold homes.
Foreclosures and evictions are soaring amid a jobless rate of more than 25 percent. EFE