SAO PAULO – Thousands of people took to the streets of cities across Brazil on Friday to protest the austerity program of right-wing President Michel Temer, who took office Aug. 31 after Congress ousted the elected head of state, Dilma Rousseff, over alleged budget irregularities.
Most of the demonstrations were peaceful, though activists in some cities blocked roads and occupied government buildings.
Here in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, union members gathered at several different locations to denounce PEC 241, the Temer administration’s proposed constitutional amendment to cap public spending for 20 years.
Opponents say PEC 241 will effectively freeze investment in health care, education and the social programs that have helped reduce economic inequality.
PEC 241 passed the lower house of Congress on Oct. 25 and is expected to come to a vote in the Senate during the next few weeks.
In Rio de Janeiro, hundreds occupied a main thoroughfare in opposition both to PEC 241 and to harsh spending cuts by the government of Rio state, which declared a “financial calamity” shortly before the city hosted the 2016 Olympics in August.
Rio Grande do Sul state issued a similar declaration this week and Friday’s mobilization in the state capital, Porto Alegre, saw major roadways shut down by piles of burning tires.
Union activists in Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais, erected makeshift bleachers in the main square in preparation for a public assembly.
Another nationwide mobilization against the austerity program is planned for Sunday.