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Gloomy economy dampens mood at Pamplona bull run

PAMPLONA, Spain - Hordes of humans will sprint ahead of thundering beasts this week at the famed running of the bulls, but Spain's most storied fiesta is being overshadowed by a crisis in the bullring.

A proposed regional bullfighting ban is combining with grim economic times to send a chill through the national pastime.

Pamplona's historic old quarter comes under the international spotlight because its bullfights are preceded by thousands of thrill-seekers chased by bulls that invariably end up goring a few people on cobblestoned streets en route to bloody deaths in the ring.

But across Spain, the number of bullfights has dropped from about 1,000 in 2008 to a projected 800 or fewer this year, as local governments that have always subsidized small-town bullfights cut budgets because of declining tax revenue.

Bullfights, or corridas in Spanish, have become a luxury when cuts must be made by town councils to maintain funding for schools, social programs and road repairs.

Making matters worse for bullfighting aficionados, the vast northeastern Catalonia region, where more than 10 percent of Spain's 46 million people lives, could wind up without bullfights when provincial legislators vote on a proposed ban in mid-July.

That would shut down Catalonia's last bullring in the city of Barcelona, though it wouldn't ban other bull spectacles like "correbou," where people chase bulls through the streets and "bouembolat," where bulls are forced to run around with flaming wax balls on their horns. - AP

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