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  HOME | Brazil (Click here for more)

Brazil General Strike Marred by Vandalism, Clashes

RIO DE JANEIRO Ė Clean-up crews worked Saturday morning to remove charred buses that had been set on fire the night before in this Brazilian metropolis, where acts of vandalism and violence erupted during a nationwide anti-austerity general strike.

Fridayís general strike was the first in Brazil in more than two decades and reflected many citizensí displeasure about a deep recession, high unemployment and planned labor-law and pension overhauls.

But EFE observed that the protest did not succeed in bringing South Americaís largest country to a halt despite unionsí vow to make President Michel Temerís administration feel the power of the working class and force his administration to back away from his reform plans.

The most serious incidents occurred in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

In Rio, groups of violent hooded protesters torched 10 city buses and committed other acts of vandalism in the metropolisí downtown; they also clashed with Military Police officers, who used armored vehicles, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them

Several large rallies occurred in Sao Paulo, one involving tens of thousands of people on the metropolisí west side who marched to Temerís private residence there.

The president, however, was with his family in Brasilia, the nationís capital, at the time.

Unions were seeking to flex their muscle amid Temerís drive to overhaul Brazilian labor law and the pension system.

The labor-law overhaul, which was passed by the lower house on Wednesday night but still needs Senate approval, would usher in lower labor costs for businesses and lend legal legitimacy to contracts reached by companies and workers via collective bargaining.

Those contracts would be valid even if they contradict some aspects of the labor code providing strict workersí rights protections.

The labor-law vote is seen as a test case for a vote on a pension overhaul, a legislative package that also is opposed by unions but strongly backed by the business sector and Temerís administration, which says it would substantially reduce government spending.

Because a pension overhaul requires amending the constitution, it would require the vote of a three-fifths majority in both the lower house and the Senate.

Temer also has angered many Brazilians by signing into law a spending cap that limits public spending to inflation for the next 20 years, an austerity package that comes even amid a deep recession and with a record 13.5 million people currently unemployed.

Last month, Brazilís Congress also approved a controversial bill that allows companies to outsource any job.

 

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