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Thousands demonstrate in Lisbon against austerity policy

Thousands of workers from the public and private sectors converged on Lisbon from all over Portugal Saturday to demonstrate against the goverment’s austerity policy, rising unemployemnt and insecurity.

At the same time the leader of the centre-right opposition, Pedro Passos Coelho, said the country would “need outside help” in spite of denials by the Socialist government.

“We need external help. The prime minister does not want to recognise it but the whole country has already understood,” he told the daily Correio da Manha.

The demonstration in Lisbon was the second in eight days. Last Saturday tens of thousands of people, mobilised via social networks, marched in a dozen cities against insecurity.

Apart from the austerity programme already in force, which involves tax rises and pay cuts in the public sector, the government announced earlier this month extra austerity measures to cut its deficit, including taxing pensions and cutting health spending and some social security payments.

But the opposition, which hitherto has abstained on austerity votes, has refused to back the measures, provoking a political crisis. Prime Minister Jose Socrates has said he will resign if the package is rejected.