Brazil gripped by strike against austerity

Brazil's Embattled president Michel Temer
Contributed by Jim Hayes

A 24-hour general strike that began yesterday,  called by Brazil’s unions has lifted the campaign to pressure president Michel Temer to abandon austerity measures.

During associated demonstrations in cities and involved 26 states, there were clashes with police. Roads were blocked and tires set on fire to create barricades. in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo police used teargas and percussion grenades to disperse the crowds.

According to Brazilian media, this was the biggest general strike in decades, involving teachers, bus drivers, healthcare providers, oil industry workers and public servants.

Brazil is experiencing simmering frustration over cuts to welfare benefits and cuts to public services, while a growing list of politicians, including eight of ministers, find themselves implicated in the notorious Jato (Car Wash) corruption.  Two of the country’s biggest companies, Petrobras and Odebrecht, have been found to be involved. A third of the senators and 39 members of Congress, are under investigation.

There are allegations that Temer is implicated. He assumed the presidency last year after impeaching his predecessor, Dilma Rouseff on the grounds of corruption, in what her supporters call a coup. She had transferred government funds to pay for the welfare system. The irony is not lost on many Brazilians.

The austerity plan aims to put a 20-year freeze on public spending, reduce pensions and to scrap labour laws that provide job protections.

Polls put Temer’s personal approval rating at 10 percent in some cases and as low as 5 percent in others. Support for the government has plunged to 10 percent.

The president of the Central Workers’ Union, or CUT for its initials in Portuguese, Beatriz Cerqueira, said the general strike marks a milestone in the history of trade union demands in the country.

“Today is not about trying to reach new achievements but to avoid setbacks,” Cerqueira added, “which is why it’s necessary to defeat the pension and labor reforms.”

 

Video by Telesur

Demonstrators and police clash at the Congress building in Brasilia the capital’

 

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