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16 Sep, 2012 01:18

Portugal marches against austerity (VIDEO)

More than 150,000 people marched through the streets of Portugal to voice anger against a planned tax hike announced by the center-right government. Chanting, "Out of here! IMF is hunger and misery!", the mob called for the government to resign.

It is estimated that around 50,000 people answered a Facebook invite in Lisbon as students and CGTP, Portugal's biggest union, called on the country's leaders to "Stop social terrorism." A similar number was seen in Porto, with several thousands turning up in around 30 other cities across the small Iberian country. One young protester was taken to a hospital with burns after an attempted self-immolation in the northern town of Aveiro. In the capital, Lisbon, protesters clashed with police in front of Parliament, but no one was injured. The rallies have been mostly incident-free, but the message was unmistakably one of frustration and anger."People are fed up with being robbed by this government's policy, which now threatens to strangle us," said bank worker Joao Pascual.An unemployed teacher, Andre Pestana, said, "It's time to say enough to robbery and lies. The government has failed on all its promises … I hope this rally is the first step in the process of changing things."The march concluded at the Square of Spain, near the Spanish Embassy, where demonstrators gathered to voice solidarity with protesters in neighboring Spain, where thousands rallied Saturday against spending cuts and tax rises.Portugal's austerity program, introduced last year, involves severe tax hikes and spending cuts and has resulted in joblessness for a record 15 percent of the population and forced the country into its worst recession since the 1970s.On Tuesday, the EU and IMF agreed to relax Portugal's deficit targets for 2012 and 2013, rewarding the Portuguese for pursuing the economic agenda that has brought so many to the streets. On Thursday, the country's Socialist Party warned that it would vote against 2013's draft budget, which includes a 78-billion-euro bailout, unless the government drops plans to increase the social security tax levied on Portuguese workers.Two opinion polls published on Saturday show that popular support for the Socialists has outpaced that of the ruling center-right Social Democrats for the first time since the June 2011 election, Reuters reports.