SAO PAULO – Brazilian unions mounted protests on Friday in 18 of the country’s 27 states against President Michel Temer’s proposal for a constitutional amendment to limit public spending for the next 20 years.
The largest gatherings were in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s most-populous cities.
“It is a warm-up for the general strike. Today is a day of national protest, but it’s not a general strike yet,” Vagner Freitas, head of the CUT labor federation, told EFE.
“Temer and the government should see this day as a warning. These proposals of withdrawing rights are extremely unpopular and workers will speak out against them,” Freitas said.
The CUT march in Sao Paulo was peaceful, but hours earlier, government opponents used piles of burning tires to block streets and highways.
In Rio de Janeiro, a procession to the state legislature ended with clashes between protesters and police.
Besides the demonstrations, CUT members across Brazil held workplace assemblies, while some cities saw walkouts by bus drivers, teachers and bank employees.
Temer’s amendment, which has already passed the lower house of Congress, would limit increases in public spending to the rate of inflation in the previous year.
Unions and grassroots groups say the rule would effectively freeze public investment in areas such as health and education.
Temer became president on Aug. 31, hours after the Senate voted to remove elected head of state Dilma Rousseff for alleged budget irregularities.
Since taking power, Temer has pushed an agenda of privatizations and increasing austerity at odds with the views of the 54 million voters who gave Rousseff a second term in October 2014.