EFEMadrid

Hundreds of Spanish citizens gathered in 26 cities on Saturday to protest against the country's widespread energy poverty and the abuses committed by energy corporations.

Their outrage was sparked by the recent death of an elderly woman in northeastern Spain whose apartment caught fire due to her involuntary use of candles for lighting, after the gas company cut off her energy supply in September.

"It is unacceptable that there are Spaniards whose electricity and heating will be cut off this winter," said the Secretary General of progressive-populist party Podemos ("We Can"), Pablo Iglesias, at one of the rallies in Madrid.

Iglesias criticized the fact that in Spain, "the eurozone's fourth-largest economy, there are people who die because energy companies leave their compatriots without electricity and heating while raking in record profits and paying their executives scandalous salaries."

Podemos is among a number of political parties and civic associations clamoring for legislative measures to dampen the consequences of energy poverty in Spain.

The leader of the United Left (IU) party, Alberto Garzón, said at the same protest _ held in front of the Madrid headquarters of Spanish energy giant Gas Natural Fenosa _ that tragedies such as the death of the woman in Reus (near Barcelona) were contrary to the Spanish Constitution, which stipulates that the country's wealth must be subordinated to the general interest.

"Companies like Gas Natural are a glaring example of how the Constitution is systematically violated," Garzón added.

The protesters also chanted slogans against the King of Spain and former Prime Minister Felipe González.

González stirred controversy when he was hired by Gas Natural as an adviser to the executive board in 2010 and offered an annual salary of 127,000 euros ($135,000). The Socialist politician headed the Spanish government between 1982 and 1996.

Many on the left have condemned González's five-year stint on the board as a prime example of a "revolving door," the practice of corporations hiring former politicians to harness their influence for lobbying purposes.

According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), 11 percent of Spanish households are unable to afford heating in the cold winter months, while 9.4 percent face difficulties when paying their energy bills.

The Environmental Sciences Association (ACA) estimates that around 7,200 annual premature deaths in Spain can be linked to energy poverty, a higher number than those caused by traffic accidents.

At the end of the various demonstrations held in front of Gas Natural offices in 26 Spanish cities, the protesters held a minute of silence for Rosa, the 81-year-old who became the latest mortal victim of energy poverty.