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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les Portugais marchent contre l’agression du FMI

by Dominique bari

Portuguese March Against the IMF Aggression

Translated Sunday 16 October 2011, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Bill Scoble

Nearly 130,000 demonstrators were out on the streets last Saturday in Lisbon. They were protesting against the austerity plan imposed by the European Union and the IMF in exchange for their 78 billion euro "financial assistance".

The Libertade great avenue in Lisbon’s city centre was swarming with people last Saturday. Some 130,000 people turned out in the Portuguese capital - there were 50,000 of them in Porto - to the same rallying motto "against impoverishment" and against the IMF aggression". The demonstrators, among whom thousands of employees in the public and private sectors, denounced the rigorous austerity plan set up by the government and imposed by the IMF and the European Union. Portugal is the third country (after Greece and Ireland) to be forced to accept a so-called "financial assistance" which Portuguese liberals call "interference", in view of the fact that the European Union’s real objective is to save the foreign banks (whether German, French, Dutch, or Spanish) that have branches in Portugal — or even the Portuguese banks.

In exchange for 78 billion euro, the Right-wing government of Pedrao Passos Coelho, elected last June, was supposed to: raise taxes, cut public expense, implement structural reforms —in particular in the labour market — cut welfare payments, privatize public companies like the TAP air company and the electricity distributor REN, and to freeze wages and the hiring of public servants.

Those measures were put place last September in order to bring the budgetary deficit from his year’s 5.9% down to 3% by 2013, the threshold imposed by the stability and growth pact.

Such a program can only cause a serious recession in 2011 and 2012 and push up unemployment, now running at more than 12%. The "frontal attack against salaried workers" was denounced by the marchers, who also objected to the plan for reducing redundancy benefits to 20 days instead of 30 per year worked. "It is time we struck out in a new direction. What we need is an alternative political project" declared Manuel Carvalho Da Silva, general secretary of the General Confederacy of Portuguese Workers, who had called for the demonstration. This confederacy has announced "a week of action" to continue the struggle against "impoverishment and against injustice", with several strikes between the 20th and the 27th of October.

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