Portugal: Anti-austerity protesters occupy government ministries

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It was the final straw for some in Portugal.

As parliament passed the 2014 budget on Tuesday, paving the way for more cuts, austerity-weary trade unionists occupied four government ministries for several hours in protest.

Public sector workers are set to face salary cuts of up to 12 percent as well as reductions to their pensions.

“I am nearing retirement and, after 40 years of working, I don’t think I will have enough of a pension to live on. It’s really borderline,” said one elderly woman.

Some marched to parliament, denouncing what will be a third straight year of austerity. The government says cuts are “inevitable” as it struggles to reduce the deficit but many on the sharp end are not convinced.

“They drive people to despair, suicide and starvation,” said another elderly woman. “It can’t go on like this. This is not what the people wanted.”

The opposition has vowed to challenge some measures in the Constitutional Court. But the ruling centre-right coalition is determined to satisfy Portugal’s international lenders and avoid having to ask for a second bailout.

Even in the parliament’s public gallery, though, some put up a protest. A small group chanted “Resign! Resign!” as the finance minister spoke. They were removed from the chamber.

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