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Thousands rally against Portuguese austerity

Crowds take to the streets in response to the government's planned cuts of pensions and salaries.

Last Modified: 19 Oct 2013 22:16
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Thousands of Portugese took the streets of Portugal's two most populated cities to demonstrate against planned cuts of pensions and salaries.

Saturday's demonstrations are a response to the government's decision to extend austerity measures in the 2014 budget.

In Lisbon, hundreds of buses slowly crossed the April 25th bridge in a protest organised by Portugal's main labor group, the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers. In the northern city of Porto, thousands gathered in the main square shouting anti-austerity slogans.

Portugal, currently engaged in an international aid programme, is focusing next year's fiscal efforts on spending cuts, reducing state pensions and cutting public workers' wages.

Unemployed teacher Sofia took part in the protest to ask for government resignation.

"I'm here to fight for more work and better wages and against this government's austerity measures, so I want them to leave together with the Troika," Sofia said referring to the trio of European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank in charge of handling bailouts of distressed euro zone countries.

The budget includes wage cuts for public sector workers ranging from 2.5 percent to 12 percent on monthly salaries of over 600 euros. Pension cuts should bring savings of 728 million euros.

"I am a retired civil servant and I'm suffering from the cuts. I worked and studied to earn more than 2,500 euros without any government help and now they are cutting my pension," pensioner Maria Barreto said.

The country's 78-billion-euro bailout formally ends in mid-2014 when Portugal should return to financing itself normally in bond markets, which it stopped doing in 2011 when its debt crisis first hit.

Seeking a better future Ricardo Pereira travelled from Torres Novas to Lisbon: "I'm here to fight for a better future for me and for the next generation and against this government's austerity measures."

The budget aims to slash the budget deficit to 4 percent of GDP next year from 5.9 percent in 2013. It may still face challenges from the Constitutional Court that has previously rejected some government austerity measures.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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