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Brazilian cities largely shut down in austerity protests

By Andrew V. Pestano
Brazilian cities largely shut down in austerity protests
Protesters block a street with various objects and bonfires in the central region of Sao Paulo in Brazil on Friday during a protest during a nationwide general strike. Photo by Fernando Bizerra Jr./EPA

April 28 (UPI) -- Several Brazilian cities largely shut down as the country takes part in its first general strike in more than two decades to oppose proposed austerity measures by President Michel Temer's government.

The nationwide strike called on by Brazilian unions began early Friday, causing transportation, schools and businesses to mostly shut down. In Sao Paolo, most businesses, banks and schools, including private schools, closed for the day and residents were blocked from using ATMs due to banners that said "We are on strike."

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"It is going to be the biggest strike in the history of Brazil," Paulo Pereira da Silva, president of the Forca Sindical trade union, said.

Only Sao Paolo's Metro Line 4-Yellow was in service early Friday because it is privatized. Most schools and businesses shut down because of the anticipated lack of transportation.

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Brazil's Congress will vote next week on proposed pension changes that would set the minimum retirement age at 65 for men and 62 for women. Workers in the public sector previously were able to retire much earlier depending on individual circumstances. Government proposals to battle a recession also include capping pension benefits. About 14 million people are unemployed in Brazil

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Some residents said they worried the strikes could cause them to lose their jobs.

"I have not been able to tell my bosses yet that I can not make it. I do not know what to do," custodian Alda Fernandes de Souza, 48, told Jornal O Globo.

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Sao Paolo Mayor Jõao Doria on Friday called the strikers "vagabonds" and "lazy."

In Brasilia, protesters burned barricades they created on major roads, which were largely empty from traffic.

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