Saturday, April 29, 2017
Protests And Clashes Mark Strike Against Temer Austerity Plan
Confrontations between police and demonstrators, a halt in the different categories that have affected the functioning of transport and schools, marked the general strike called for Friday against the austerity measures of President Michel Temer in a country experiencing its worst crisis in decades, Plunged into recession and record levels of unemployment.
Earlier in the afternoon, when major marches were planned, downtown Rio became a battlefield, while police dispersed around 2,000 protesters in front of the Legislative Assembly with tear gas bombs, according to AFPTV journalists.
The clashes continued at nightfall near Cinelandia, also in the center of the city, surrounded by police officers of the clashes, who were scattering groups of people in neighboring streets.
At least eight buses were set alight in Lapa by groups of youths who erected barricades and destroyed street furniture, while other demonstrators tried to leave the area amid smoke from fires and tear gas bombs.
In the square, the crowd listened to speakers and repeated "Outrage!".
In responding to the demonstrations, Temer said that the protests called for this Friday "occurred freely in every country." "Unfortunately, small groups blocked roads and avenues to prevent the citizen's right to come and go, which ended up unable to reach his place of work or to move freely".
"The federal government reaffirms its commitment to democracy and to Brazilian institutions. Work towards the modernization of national legislation will continue, with broad and frank debate, held in the appropriate arena for this discussion, which is the National Congress."
In the morning, police intervened against activists blocking streets in Sao Paulo and other cities.
According to the Central Workers' Union (CUT), the first general strike convened in the country since June 1996, against privatizations and flexibilization of labor rights promoted by the government of then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002).
Now, the denunciations point in particular to the pension reform projects and, again, to the flexibilization of labor contracts.
The two initiatives are being voted on in Congress as part of the government's program to clear accounts and take Brazil out of the worst recession in its history.
According to official data published on Friday, unemployment in the largest Latin American economy reached a new record, 13.7%, with 14.2 million people looking for work.
Both for the CUT, linked to the left, and for the Forca Sindical (FS), the day was a success. According to the FS, almost 40 million people joined the strike.
"It is a clear demonstration that people have decided to stop in protest against the withdrawal of their rights by the government," said former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), in an interview with the radio station Brasil Atual.
"It is a pleasure to know that the Brazilian people are becoming aware," added the former union leader, a favorite in polls for the 2018 presidential election, despite responding to five lawsuits, most of them related to the corruption scandal At Petrobras.
For the government, on the contrary, the standstill was a failure: "They are preventing people from reaching their places of work." At first, this shows that it is a strike that does not exist. Of the Congress, "Justice Minister Osmar Serraglio told CBN radio.
In Sao Paulo, there were some clashes between protesters obstructing important roads in the city and the police, causing great congestion.
Afternoon, the trains and subway resumed working partially, but the buses were still paralyzed.
According to an AFP reporter, the stores registered partial adhesion to the shutdown.
"We can no longer be silent, with a government that is not legitimate, that was not elected, that promotes a disarticulation of the rights of workers and the Brazilian people," said Ricardo Jacques, a Sao Paulo state bank.
Metallurgists, oil tankers, health officials and the Post Office also joined the strike. Some 60,000 workers were absent from work at factories in the industrial belt of Sao Paulo, paralyzing automakers such as Mercedes or Ford, the local Metalworkers' Union said.
Temer, who has 10% of the population's support, replaced in 2016 President Dilma Rousseff, who was dismissed by Congress on charges of manipulating public accounts.
Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo reported 13 flights canceled and 23 delays out of a total of 124 scheduled, but the company that manages it could not tell if the disorders are directly related to the strike.
In the international terminal of Guarulhos, of the 190 landings and 175 scheduled departures, there were recorded 24 delayed departures and seven cancellations until the 16 hours local, according to a statement released by the terminal. In Brasilia, the strike affected 32 of the 182 scheduled flights in the morning and eight had to be canceled.
The capital was without a bus and subway and fences around Congress and Planalto Palace, the seat of the presidency, as part of an extensive police operation to prevent intrusions during the protests, closely monitored by the Temer government.