BRASILIA – Hundreds of activists from peasant movements on Wednesday partially occupied the Finance Ministry in Brazil’s capital on a day of protests against the government of Michel Temer.
The demonstrators, convened by unions and leftist organizations opposing a proposed government reform of the retirement system, blocked the main entrance to the building and occupied the first floor.
Police estimated that about 500 demonstrators were on hand but protest organizers said about 1,500 people took part.
The occupation was initially resisted by ministry guards and amid pushing and shoving several windows on the building’s lower floor were broken, although after that incident the protest continued peacefully.
The protests were largest in Sao Paulo, where the city’s public transport network was paralyzed early in the morning, although as the day wore on it began to function with something resembling normality.
In Rio de Janeiro, the largest number of protesters who turned out were teachers at private and public schools, forcing most of the schools to close their doors for the day, although the public transportation network operated with no problems.
Most of the protesters were affiliated with the Workers Party (PT) of former Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, who was deposed in August for violating fiscal laws and was replaced by Temer.
Temer presented a controversial pension system reform last December, raising to 65 the minimum age for both men and women to begin receiving retirement benefits.
According to current law, Brazilian women may retire with 30 years of work history and men with 35, and there is no lower age limit on doing so, meaning that some people can take advantage of the social safety net starting at age 50.
The proposed alterations to the retirement system are part of a stringent structural adjustment put forth by Temer, a revamping that includes heavy cuts in public spending over the next two decades.