A general strike disrupted major cities across Brazil on Friday as union workers protested President Michel Temer’s proposal to loosen labor rules and trim pension benefits.
In Sao Paulo, protesters blocked some of the city’s main roads and highways and hindered access to Guarulhos Airport, the biggest in the country. Later in the day, thousands marched toward the city hall.
Access to Rio de Janeiro’s downtown was blocked early in the day, with traffic jams stretching 9 miles (14 kilometers) out from lines of strikers and rows of burning tires. Many people walked or biked to their jobs.
Protesters in Rio massed in front of the Guanabara Palace, the seat of the Rio state government. University teachers demanded the government pay back wages owed them. Thousands of state workers haven't been paid in months because of an acute budget crisis.
At the end of the day, about 6,000 people gathered in downtown Rio de Janeiro with banners denouncing Brazil’s government and demanding the ouster of Temer and of Rio Gov. Luiz Fernando Pezao, who are both from the same party.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the demonstration after a few protesters started burning piles of garbage.
The strike also affected other big cities, including Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte and the capital, Brasilia.
Demonstrators take part in a protest calling Brazilian President Michel Temer to step down and against his economic and labor reforms, in downtown Rio de Janeiro on June 30, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Temer’s work rule proposal before Congress would make it easier for employers to hire temporary workers and pay fewer benefits.
The pension overhaul that he is pushing would raise the retirement age and trim payments. Currently, many public workers can retire at age 54 with nearly full benefits. The proposal would set a minimum retirement age for the first time in Brazil at 65 for men and 62 for women.
The proposals are unpopular and it’s unclear if even watered-down versions will be passed because of Brazil’s deep political crisis set off by sprawling corruption investigations that have brought charges against many top politicians, including the president.
Temer has been charged with bribery, and the lower Chamber of Deputies in Congress will soon begin reviewing allegations against him. If two-thirds vote that the case has merit, Temer would be suspended for up 180 days while the country’s top court conducted a trial. Temer denies wrongdoing.

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