Protests in Brazil against pension reform

Indo Asian News Service

Brasilia, March 16 (IANS) Thousands of Brazilians staged protests across the country against a proposed government reform of the retirement system.

The protests on Wednesday were organised by labour unions and social movements, Efe news reported.

Public employees and teacher unions took part in the protests, forcing schools and universities to stay shut for the day in several states, including Rio de Janeiro.

Transport services were also hit as bus drivers and metro and rail operators in cities such as Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Curitiba joined the protests.

Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, woke up on Wednesday to no buses and a partially operational metro although the transportation system normalised as the day progressed.

Blockades were reported on major roads, along with huge traffic jams and the closure of some banks.

Amidst the chaos, President Michel Temer again defended the reform saying it would prevent a collapse of the pension system and that it was the right time for Brazil to undertake an extensive reform in order to prevent a crisis in the future such as the ones Portugal, Greece and Spain have faced.

Temer's plan raises to 65 the minimum retirement age for both men and women to begin receiving retirement benefits.

According to the current law, Brazilian women may retire with 30 years of work history and men with 35, with no lower age limit, allowing people to take advantage of the social safety net sometimes starting at the age of 50.