Brazil workers protest against pension reform, disrupt transport

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 15, 2017 7:42 AM

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian civil servants, rural workers and labor confederations staged nationwide demonstrations on Wednesday against President Michel Temer's pension reform plan, with hundreds of protesters occupying the premises of the finance ministry in the capital Brasilia.

Bus and subway services were partially disrupted in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the country's most populous cities. Drivers remained stranded because of small street demonstrations across several major avenues in São Paulo's eastern, southern and northern corners.

In Brasilia, more than 1,500 people from peasant and homeless groups held protests at the finance ministry, the Landless Peasant Movement said in a statement.

Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles said some damage occurred inside the ministry, without providing details.

"Several floors of the building were invaded because of this strike," Meirelles told reporters in Brasilia.

The demonstrations reflect the deep ideological divide among Brazilians as Temer seeks to pass the nation's most ambitious platform of economic reforms in two decades.

Leaders in Temer's 22-party alliance say capping pension benefits would be a key step to pull the country out of its worst recession on record.

Last week, Temer acknowledged that his administration would have to negotiate with Congress to win passage of the pension reform, which would establish a minimum age of retirement and scale back benefits for civil servants.

Still, senior lawmakers have said there is not much room for changes to Temer's original proposal if the country wants to reduce a record budget deficit that is putting the brakes on an economic recovery and hampering investor confidence.

Public transport workers in the cities of Recife, Curitiba and Belo Horizonte were also striking.

(Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Additional reporting bY Marcela Ayres iN Brasilia; Editing by W Simon and Lisa Von Ahn)