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Zapatero defends "exceptional" state of alert in Congress

Source: El Pais - Thu 9th Dec 2010

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero defended the government's decision to enforce a state of alert in the face of "open rebellion against the rule of law" in Congress on Thursday, after last weekend's wildcat strike by air traffic controllers, resulting in the closure of Spanish airspace.

The government mobilized the army to restore air traffic control, "an exceptional measure to put an end to an exceptional situation" Zapatero said. The controllers' USCA union had presented a new collective agreement last Friday, making clear it would shut down Spanish airspace if it was not signed. "Nobody, whether individually or collectively, can hold citizens hostage for their demands" the prime minister said.

Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the opposition, backed the measure but critisised the government for having let the situation grow for six years, reserving particular ire for Public Works Minister José Blanco. "You have a part-time minister who does not devote himself to what he should. He is utterly useless" Rajoy said.

The public prosecutor confirmed it would seek terms of up to eight years against controllers for sedition. In Madrid, 175 workers are to take the stand in an inquiry, but the first 12 elected not to testify, arguing they should be tried under military law.

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