Nationwide Brazilian strike turns violent

Brazilians were protesting a series of reforms the center-right government says are needed to save Latin America's biggest economy from further damage after more than two years of deep recession.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Street demonstrations grew throughout the day with more than 2,000 people in central Rio de Janeiro.

Demonstrators in Brazil clashed with riot police on Friday during a nationwide strike that shut down transportation, schools and banks across much of the country in protest against economic austerity reforms.

Analysts and government officials said the strike would have little impact on president Michel Temer's efforts to push economic reforms through Congress, given the president's continued support among legislators.

Police resorted to using tear gas and firing rubber bullets in several cities in efforts to clear roadways blocked by burning barricades.

TRT World spoke to Brazilian-based journalist Sam Cowie.

Protesters also obstructed the entrances of airports and metro stations.

The Forca Sindical union said 40 million people had responded to the call for the nationwide strike. This could not be independently verified.

Street demonstrations grew throughout the day with more than 2,000 people in central Rio de Janeiro.

Several thousand people gathered for what was expected to be a bigger gathering in Sao Paulo, where protesters planned to march toward the private home of President Michel Temer.


Friday's strikes could become the biggest protest to hit the Temer administration since he took over from impeached president Dilma Rousseff last August. (Reuters)

Riot police deployed in capital Brasilia to block off government buildings.

The call for a general strike by unions and left-wing organisations came as government statistics on Friday showed unemployment had reached a record 13.7 percent, or more than 14 million people without jobs.

"We can't keep quiet anymore with a government that isn't legitimate, which wasn't elected, to dismantle the rights of workers," said Ricardo Jacques, a striking bank employee in Sao Paulo.

The strike had the greatest effect in heavily unionised parts of the economy, including transportation, banks, schools, the post office and some hospital staff. The metallurgical workers' union said 60,000 members put down their tools.

Although a spokesman for the National Civil Aviation Agency said that operations at the airports are functioning normally, there were multiple reports of delayed and cancelled flights.

Temer backs reforms

Temer has said Brazil's economy faces a meltdown without severe fiscal discipline and belt tightening.

His most controversial measure has been to curb pension costs by raising the retirement age to 65 for men and 62 for women, up from the current 60 and 55.

The government is also pushing for a liberalisation of labour laws and has succeeded in getting Congress to pass a 20-year freeze on spending increases.

Friday's strikes could become the biggest protest to hit the Temer administration since he took over from impeached president Dilma Rousseff last August.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies