Over 100,000 people have gathered in Lisbon for Portugal's largest rally to date against austerity measures. The protest has come just days before international creditors evaluate the country's bailout program.
More than 100,000 demonstrators packed into Lisbon's Palace Square on Saturday to protest against Portugal's tough austerity program and economic hardships.
In the largest rally against austerity measures to date, demonstrators from across the country brandished placards reading "The struggle continues", "No to exploitation, no to inequality, no to impoverishment" and "Another policy is possible and necessary."
"We take this opportunity here to make our own evaluation on behalf of those who suffer daily," Armenio Carlos, head of the country's largest union, CGTP, told supporters as the crowd chanted: "IMF [International Monetary Fund] doesn't call the shots here!"
Saturday's rally was scheduled ahead of next week's meeting with international creditors, protest organizers said. On Wednesday officials from the so-called Troika - the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - arrive in Portugal on their latest mission to evaluate progress on the country's bailout program.
Tough austerity measures
Portugal agreed last May to sell public companies and implement spending cuts and tax hikes, in exchange for a 78-billion-euro ($103-billion) loan from the EU and the IMF. Portugal is currently enduring its worst recession in decades with unemployment at a record low of around 13 percent.
"The bailout is good for the creditors who get billions in interest and commissions, good for the banks ... But the measures are really bad for the workers, youths, pensioners, for 2.7 million Portuguese on the verge of poverty and those already below the poverty line," Armenio Carlos declared. The CGTP advocates that Portugal try to renegotiate its debt rather than impose further austerity measures.
The Union, which put Saturday's turnout figures closer to 300,000, promised the next wave of rallies across Portugal as soon as February 29.
ccp/dfm (AFP, Reuters)