Portugal’s riot police have clashed with demonstrators protesting against the government austerity measures, which include salary cuts and tax hikes. On Monday night, thousands of angry demonstrators made a large fire outside the parliament building in the capital Lisbon where the riot police used batons to disperse them. In response, protesters pelted bottles at the police forces. Chanting anti-government slogans, the protesters called on the Portuguese officials to put an end to austerity measures. Hours earlier, the government unveiled a tough budget for 2013 which includes cuts in public services and salaries of civil servants.
The government is defending the budget because statistics show 2013 will mark the country’s third year of recession, and unemployment will soar to nearly 16 percent. Portugal expects its economy to contract 3 percent this year as it copes with the deepest recession it has gone through since the 1970s. On October 13, thousands of people took to the streets in the capital and other cities to protest against the austerity measures. In one of the main squares in Lisbon, concerts were given and other forms of artistic expression were performed by actors, singers, and dancers.
“Culture is resistance, the artists are in the street,” was a slogan of the day. “Portugal has had enough of being robbed and humiliated,” read one of the leaflets handed out at the demonstrations. In a separate demonstration, organized by the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (CGTP), several thousand people marched to the parliament. “The government is hanging by a thread… the quicker we cut it, the quicker the government will collapse,”
CGTP leader Armenio Carlos said. Some unions have called a general strike for November 14. Portugal’s international creditors, the European Central Bank (ECB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Union (EU), are keeping an eye on Portugal’s implementation of spending cuts and reforms required in return for the 78-billion-euro ($102 billion) rescue package the country received in 2011. The creditors have agreed to relax Portugal’s deficit targets for 2012 and 2013 as a reward to the country for pushing through reforms.