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Vatican rebuffs Madrid protesters

Pope arrives for World Youth Day following demonstrations

18 August, 12:50
Vatican rebuffs Madrid protesters (ANSA) - Vatican City, August 18 - As Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Madrid Thursday, Vatican Radio released a statement rebuffing claims from angry Spanish protesters that the pontiff's visit for World Youth Day was an unfair burden on taxpayers.

"The event will not cost anything" for Spain, it said. "The burden will fall on the church, the pilgrims, and private donors," it added, citing Spanish Government Spokesman Jose Blanco.

The Spanish leftist union CGT instead estimated that the real cost to taxpayers is around 100 million euros when taking into account security, public buildings and spaces made available, different forms of aid and tax allowances.

Demonstrators in the central square of Puerta del Sol decried the pope's arrival into early Thursday with shouts of "go away" and "shame".

The chants were led by several thousand youth mostly under the banner of the so-called "indignados", a grassroots movement of angry young people who earlier this year took over squares in huge numbers all around the country for several weeks, demanding better work opportunities from their government.

About five million workers are unemployed in Spain, accounting for 21% of the active population, 50% of whom are young.

Numerous law enforcement vans were brought into the square, and police in anti-riot gear charged twice towards demonstrators to get them to move away from the square and make room for World Youth Day celebrations.

Police said that they arrested seven and 11 were injured.

Madrid city officials estimate that more than one million outsiders will be in Madrid through the end of the celebrations on August 21.

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