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News > Latin America

Protests Against Brazil's Temer Halts Transport in Main Cities

  • Protestors block the Presidente Dutra highway during a strike against Brazilian Social Welfare reform project from government, in Sao Jose dos Campos.

    Protestors block the Presidente Dutra highway during a strike against Brazilian Social Welfare reform project from government, in Sao Jose dos Campos. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 March 2017

Brazil has kicked off a national strike against President Temer and his neoliberal reforms.

Brazilians took to the streets in a nationwide protest on Wednesday against President Michel Temer's pension reform plan and halted public transportation in some of the major cities.

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Buses and subway services were disrupted in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the country's most populous cities, as public transport workers in the cities of Recife, Curitiba and Belo Horizonte went on strike to protest harsh austerity measures in conjunction with the protests.

"This is the first unified mobilization this year and opens the calendar of an intense agenda that we will have in 2017 to denounce the setbacks that penalize workers, such as reforms to the retirement system and labor legislation," said the organizers in a statement.

Hundreds of protesters also occupied the premises of the Finance Ministry in the capital Brasilia, as more than 1,500 people from peasant and homeless groups held protests outside the building.

"While the government justifies the reforms due to the public deficit, it grants tax exemptions to companies, is not involved in the effective fight against tax evasion and forgives the debts of hundreds of companies that owe three times the value of the deficit of the retirement system," said the organizers.

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The protests began in the early morning and are expected to end in the afternoon on the famous Paulista Avenue with the participation of former President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva.

Workers' unions, the Landless Worker Movement known as the MST, as well as the Popular Brazil Front, and the Fearless People Front organized the march, with support from other trade unions.

"The strike will extend to all the states of the country and we hope to have the adhesion of more than 1 million members," said the head of the National Confederation of Education Workers, Heleno Araujo.

According to Araujo, the 48 affiliated entities of the union have joined the general strike, which was initially scheduled to last 10 days but could be extended further.

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The teachers' union is also holding regional assemblies to decide whether universities and colleges, both public and private, will be closed to protest an education reform promoted by Temer.

Temer's controversial pension reform plan — introduced to Congress last December — would reduce benefits, raise social security contributions by civil servants and set a minimum age of retirement at 65 years in a country where people work on average until the age of 54 years before retiring.

It also eliminates special pensions for the education and agriculture sector, removes retirement benefits based on the minimum wage, which according to the head of the Landless Worker Movement, Joao Pedro Stedile, almost tripled during the governments of Lula and Dilma Rousseff.

The workers are also demanding Temer's resignation, since he was appointed after the parliamentary coup against Rousseff, and demand new general elections.

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