Thousands rally in Portugal against pro-austerity government

LISBON (AFP) - Thousands of Portuguese rallied in Lisbon on Saturday, calling for the resignation of the government whose austerity policies they claimed have exacerbated the country's recession.

"Government out", "Against exploitation and impoverishment", screamed slogans brandished by protestors at the demonstration called by the country's main union CGTP.

"We must do whatever we can to get rid of this government," declared the CGTP's secretary general Armenio Carlos.

Slogans "Austerity punishes the poor but benefits the rich", "Thief, thief", were slapped against the portrait of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, held high by demonstrators including civil servants, the unemployed and retirees.

"The government should resign immediately," said 57-year-old Maria, who like her husband and daughter, has been unemployed for several months.

Antonio Amoreira, from the northern city of Oporto, said: "We came to Lisbon to say 'enough'. The government is cutting everything, even pensions." Some 57 per cent of the country wants parliament dissolved and fresh elections called, according to a survey published on Saturday by Publico newspaper.

A new austerity plan announced in early May had sparked anger. Under the plan, retirement age would be delayed to 66 years from 65, some 30,000 civil service jobs would go and working hours for civil servants lengthened to 40 hours a week from 35 currently.

Portugal's economy, which has been propped up since May 2011 by a European bailout package of 78 billion euros, is expected to contract 2.3 per cent by the end of the year. Unemployment is forecast to climb to a record 18.2 per cent.

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