Protests against president disrupt Brazil’s major cities

Photo: Eraldo Peres

Photo: Eraldo Peres

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A general strike disrupted major cities across Brazil on Friday as union workers protested President Michel Temer’s proposal to loosen labor rules and trim pension benefits.

In Sao Paulo, protesters blocked some of the city’s main roads and highways and hindered access to Guarulhos Airport, the biggest in the country. Later in the day, thousands marched toward the city hall.

Access to Rio de Janeiro’s downtown was blocked early in the day, with traffic jams stretching 9 miles (14 kilometers) out from lines of strikers and rows of burning tires. Many people walked or biked to their jobs.

“We must defeat the labor and pension reforms because it is the return of slavery, and you’ll have to work until you’re 100, 200 years old” said Iran de Paula, a lawyer who belongs to the Movement for Roofless Workers.

Protesters in Rio massed in front of the Guanabara Palace, the seat of the Rio state government. University teachers demanded the government pay back wages owed them. Thousands of state workers haven’t been paid in months because of an acute budget crisis.

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