Protests and Strikes Block Traffic in Madrid

CNN is reporting that major traffic jams snarled central Madrid Thursday, as Spain's first general strike in more than a year began with nine people "slightly injured" in demonstrations, including police officers.

Spanish unions are protesting the new conservative government's labor reforms and austerity cuts. Dozens of union members picketed outside the Agriculture Ministry before dawn, with dozens of riot police on hand.

The Interior Ministry said public transport was operating almost normally in Madrid and Barcelona, but in Madrid's Plaza Castilla, commuters said they waited up to two hours for public transport. Some bus services which normally run every five minutes had service only every 30 minutes, according to a municipal bus employee.

The general strike is the first one against the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, which was elected in November and took office in December, in the midst of Spain's deep economic crisis.

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