Italian Protesters Take on Police During Mass March Against Austerity Budget, Portugal Stage Anti-Austerity Protests

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(RT) – Violence broke out between police and demonstrators in Rome on Saturday as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest Italy’s new budget.

Fifteen protesters were arrested and at least 20 police officers were injured, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.   

We are laying siege to the city!” chanted the crowd, as a small minority pelted the police and government buildings with water bottles and eggs.

A group of protesters turned over garbage bins and set some of them on fire in front of the Economy Ministry.

Police say they confiscated tear gas canisters and rocks from some of the radicals in the predominantly youthful crowd and found chains stashed away along the route of the march.

Organizers estimated that 70,000 people took part in the protest, while authorities placed the number closer to 50,000.

With this budget the government is continuing to hurt a country which is already on its knees,” said Piero Bernocchi, leader of the left-wing COBAS trade union that was behind the demonstration.

“Even after austerity has proven to be disastrous, with debt rising, the economy crumbling, and unemployment soaring, they still continue with these policies.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Enrico Letta – who is presiding over a fractious Left-Right coalition – presented the 2014 budget that immediately came under a firestorm of criticism from both sides of the political spectrum.

Left-wingers criticized the document for freezing state sector pay and pensions, while right-wingers and businesses said it failed to stimulate growth with insufficient cuts to Italy’s oppressive corporate taxes.

Italy annually spends around 800 billion euro – a sum it cannot afford as it struggles with a recession that started more than two years ago. The latest budget aims to cut the deficit to 2.5 percent – still worse than most of Europe.

On Friday, a general strike paralyzed transport links in the country and forced the cancellation of flights in and out of Rome.

But Saturday’s protests weren’t just about pay. Some called for the government to abandon an expensive fast-train link with France. Others demanded that Italy provide more social housing. Many bemoaned the country’s treatment of immigrants, who have suffered several tragic incidents in recent months as they attempted to reach the coast of Italy.

Letta has gone on television to defend his government, but dissenters have not been placated and say that even bigger demonstrations will be staged next week. – RT: Italian protesters take on police during mass march against austerity budget

Portuguese stage massive anti-austerity protests

(Xinhuanet) – Tens of thousands of Portuguese staged massive protests on Saturday against the government’s harsh austerity measures in Portugal’s capital Lisbon and the second largest city of Porto in the north.

The protests came only four days after the government approved the 2014 draft budget which forecast more spending cuts to meet the budget deficit reduction target set by international creditors.

In Lisbon, the protesters rallied in rain at Alcantara Square located in the northern end of the April 25 Bridge. The protestors had planned to march across the bridge but were stopped by local authorities due to security reasons.

Raising high placards, the demonstrators, joined by trade union leaders as well as some lawmakers, chanted slogans opposing the troika comprising the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank, and the government’s implementation of the austerity measures.

In Porto, about 20,000 protesters marched through the Prince Bridge across the Douro River, protesting against the troika and the government’s austerity policies.

A mechanic who identified himself as Alvares said the current government only did what the troika told them to do without taking into consideration people’s interests.

“What the government does is only to increase taxes, cut salaries and allowances which made people’s life worse and worse,” he added.

Secretary-General of CGPT or the Portuguese Workers Confederation Armenio Carlos said in his speech that his organization planned to stage more demonstrations in the coming months, while calling on the public to act and safeguard their own interests.

Under a 78-billion-euro (101-billion-U.S. dollar) bailout agreement with the troika in May 2011, Portugal has been implementing a tough austerity policy which has been blamed for a lingering recession in the country and has sparked strong discontent among the public. –Xinhuanet: Portuguese stage massive anti-austerity protests

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