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Austerity cutbacks hit Spain's national day parade

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[October 13, 2012]  MADRID (AP) -- Spain observed its National Day festivities in somber mood on Friday as the traditional military pageant was scaled back to cut costs.

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia presided over a much reduced parade that featured none of the usual fighter jets or tanks. Instead, on offer were 2,600 marching soldiers, 50 armored cars and seven trainer aircraft normally used for displays.

Spain is under pressure to fix its finances as it struggles through a recession. The belt-tightening has increased tension between the central government and the semi-autonomous regions, where some dismissed Friday's holiday.

Twelve schools in the populous Catalonia region ignored the festivities as they refused to acknowledge a holiday that highlights Spanish unity over regional identities.

"We feel Catalan, we have nothing to celebrate," said Luis Plana, a parent-teacher association spokesman.

Some 6,000 people nevertheless gathered in downtown Barcelona to wave Spanish flags and express their desire to remain both Catalans and part of Spain. Many draped themselves in Spanish national colors and carried banners saying "We are all Catalonia."

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Around 100 pro-Catalan separatists shadowed the Barcelona gathering, jeering and shouting abuse. A line of police kept the two groups apart, though one person was slightly hurt in a minor scuffle, police and emergency services said.

October 12 is celebrated as the day Christopher Columbus discovered America in the name of the Spanish Crown.

[Associated Press; By HAROLD HECKLE]

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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