Protesting Spanish farmers drive hundreds of tractors to Madrid

  • World
  • Wednesday, 21 Feb 2024

Spanish farmers attend a protest over price pressures, taxes and green regulation, grievances shared by farmers across Europe, in Madrid, Spain, February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Juan Medina

MADRID (Reuters) -Convoys of tractors disrupted traffic around the Spanish capital on Wednesday as farmers protesting against what they see as excessive red tape and insufficient state aid converged in downtown Madrid to march towards the Agriculture Ministry.

Farmers have been protesting for weeks across Europe, most recently including Poland, Greece and the Czech Republic. They all call for less bureaucracy linked to the European Union's Common Agriculture Policy and a loosening of the bloc's environmental rules.

As they waited for five columns of tractors to reach the gathering point at the central Independence Square, protesters in yellow vests waved Spanish, regional and union and rang cow bells there while blaring music from loudspeakers.

Traffic around the Puerta de Alcala monument ground to a halt, with several buses unable to continue their routes as farmers crowded the streets.

Once the tractors arrived, there were scuffles with police as the farmers attempted to march along Alcala street, a different route than initially planned. Officers in riot gear held the line, blocking the protesters' advance, even as a number of tractors approached them.

Other participants moved toward the ministry along a parallel street, following the official itinerary.

Some protesters jeered at a television crew for La Sexta channel, with one man repeatedly hitting the camera.

One farmer walked with a large white-and-chestnut cow, while another led a cart drawn by two oxen carrying stacks of fake 500-euro notes.

Lucia Risueno, a 52-year-old vineyard owner from the Castille-La Mancha region, said that authorities had failed to help the sector and called for fairer prices.

"I have the same expenses but I'm making half as much, so we can't go on like this," she told Reuters, adding protest would go on until the government implemented strong measures to aid farmers.

Adolfo Albaladejo, 54, said he was fighting to ensure agriculture does not disappear from his country.

"The Spanish countryside wants protectionism. We want to protect our products and be competitive," he said.

(Reporting by Catarina Demony, Guillermo Martinez, Antoine Demaison, Nacho Doce, Violeta Santos and Marco Trujillo; Writing by David Latona; Editing by Alex Richardson and Tomasz Janowski)

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