BRASILIA – Thousands of people gathered on Tuesday outside Brazil’s Congress to protest against the austerity plan of President Michel Temer and against what they see as attempts to shield corrupt politicians.
Student groups and labor unions organized the demonstration to coincide with a debate in the Senate on Temer’s proposal for a constitutional amendment that would cap public spending for 20 years.
Temer has pursued an aggressive right-wing agenda since taking office Aug. 31 after Congress ousted the elected president, social democrat Dilma Rousseff, over alleged budget irregularities.
The constitutional amendment has already passed the lower house, which also drew the ire of the protesters on Tuesday over attempts by some lawmakers to add to an anti-corruption bill a measure that would extend pardons to politicians convicted of campaign-finance offenses.
Illicit campaign donations are a key element in the $2 billion scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras, a case that has led to charges against dozens of politicians from all of Brazil’s major parties.
Tuesday’s demonstration began peacefully, but some in the crowd tried to enter the legislature and police used tear gas to force them to retreat.
The militants regrouped and police – including some on horseback – pursued them around Brasilia’s Esplanade of the Ministries.
Protesters erected barricades at some points.
At least two cars were flipped over and three others set on fire, while EFE saw protesters assault journalists and vehicles belonging to media outlets.
The Senate and lower house went about their scheduled business on Tuesday despite the protests and a declaration of national mourning following the crash of an airplane chartered by Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense.
Players, coaches, club executives and journalists were among the 71 people killed when the aircraft went down near the airport in Medellin, Colombia.