CINERA, Spain — Rioting coal miners fired rockets at Spanish police who responded with rubber bullets Tuesday as weeks of protests against cuts to mine subsidies turned increasingly violent.
Some 200 masked miners clashed with riot police in Cinera, one of several northern mining villages where protests have rumbled for more than a month against the cuts which unions say threaten tens of thousands of jobs.
The clashes broke out when police tried unsuccessfully to remove one of several barricades erected and set on fire by the miners across a major highway near the village, which turned into a riot zone as cops chased protesters.
The protests were unusually fierce by the standard of social demonstrations over recent months. Several men fired rockets from home-made bazookas at police and others hurled firecrackers and launched stones with slingshots.
Police with bullet-proof vests and riot shields retaliated by firing rubber bullets and smoke bombs, before withdrawing as some protestors remained at the scene throwing firecrackers and stones.
“We will not stop,” several miners chanted. “They will get tired before we do.”
Seven people were injured in various other clashes on Friday. On Monday tens of thousands of people marched in the northern towns of Leon and Langreo during a sector-wide strike called in dozens of mining towns.
Spain’s cash-strapped central government has slashed subsidies to the coal sector this year to 111 million euros ($142 million) from 301 million euros last year, part of wide-ranging cuts to lower its deficit.
Unions say the subsidy cuts will destroy the coal mines, which rely on state aid to compete with cheaper imports, and threaten the jobs of around 8,000 coal miners and up to 30,000 other people indirectly employed by the sector.