RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian militarized police used tear gas to break up a massive protest on Wednesday by public employees angry over a plan by the Rio de Janeiro state government to slash their salaries by as much as 30 percent.
Thousands of workers, including police officers and prison guards, gathered in front of the state legislature in Rio de Janeiro as lawmakers debated the proposed pay cuts.
The militarized state police resorted to tear gas after several confrontations between cops and protesters.
Gov. Luiz Fernando Pezao defended his austerity package, insisting that the state is suffering from the same economic crisis plaguing all of Brazil.
He said the aim of the cuts is to allow Rio de Janeiro to emerge from the severe imbalances that forced the state government to declare a state of “financial calamity” just weeks before this city hosted the 2016 Olympics in August.
With the world’s eyes on Rio, the Brazilian central government provided the money to meet commitments for the Olympics and the Paralympics in September, but the aid ended once the games were over.
“It’s not a crisis. It’s theft, it’s corruption. While they cut the employees’ pay, they approve a package of tax exemptions for favored sectors. Nothing is by chance,” attorney Nara Gonzalves told EFE.
Standing nearby, courthouse employee Marcelo Magalhaes shouted: “corrupt, thieving government. They spend it all and now they want the workers to pay the bill.”
The protesters urged the militarized police standing guard around the capitol to join the demonstration and allow the public into the legislative chamber.
Last week, a group of protesters occupied the assembly for two hours.