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Tens of thousands protest austerity policies in Portugal

Published on 15/10/2011

Tens of thousands of people on Saturday took to the streets of Lisbon to protest against the austerity programmes of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The large turn-out came just days after Portugal’s rightwing coalition government announced a tough austerity budget — one of the conditions of the 78-billion-euro EU-IMF bailout the country earlier this year.

Organisers said 50,000 people of all ages marched peacefully through the streets of Lisbon to parliament, shouting slogans and carrying barriers denouncing the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank.

The three international organisations have imposed tough austerity programmes on debt-hit Greece, Ireland and Portugal in return for multi-billion euro bail-out loans.

Amid world wide protests about handling of the economy, demonstrators turned out for marches in nine other towns and cities around the country, organised by an array of campaigning groups, local news media reported, with turn-out particularly strong in the northern city of Porto.

“We are victims of financial speculation and this austerity programme is going to ruin us,” 25-year-old Mathieu Rego told AFP, as he marched in Lisbon.

“I am really disgusted because it will be the civil servants again who are going to pay for the crisis,” said Maria Joao Santos, 54, a local authority worker.

Campaigners say the latest budget cuts announced this week by Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho has only reinforced the need to protest and express their indignation.

In a televised address Thursday, Passos Coelho revealed the broad lines of a tough austerity budget for 2012, which he said was needed to tackle what he described as a “national emergency”.

Portugal in May received a 78-billion-euro bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund — but that was conditional on a tough austerity programme.

The programme goes before parliament on Monday, but Passos Coelho’s right-wing coalition holds an absolute majority in the assembly.

The protests were inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in the United States and the “Indignants” in Spain, targeting 951 cities in 82 countries across the planet in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas.