(Adds comment from worker)
By Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Brad Haynes
SAO PAULO, March 15 Brazilian civil servants,
rural workers and labor unions staged nationwide demonstrations
on Wednesday against President Michel Temer's pension reform
plan, with hundreds of protesters occupying the finance ministry
in the capital Brasilia.
Bus and subway services were partially disrupted in São
Paulo, the country's biggest city, where small street
demonstrations around the city snarled drivers in traffic.
"The traffic stopped everything. It was chaos," said Claudio
Rogerio Santos, a taxi driver in Sao Paulo who brought four
carpooling workers to a telemarketing firm that paid for their
ride. "It meant more demand for cabs, but I doubt the
politicians are paying any attention."
Temer and his allies in the ruling coalition say capping
pension benefits and raising the retirement age is key to fixing
public finances and pulling the country out of its worst
recession in more than a century. Powerful unions have pledged
to fight the proposed reform tooth and nail.
In Brasilia more than 1,500 people from peasant and homeless
groups protested at the finance ministry, the Landless Workers
Movement said in a statement. Protesters invaded the ministry in
the dawn hours and some remained nearly eight hours later.
Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles said some damage
occurred inside the ministry, without providing details.
"Several floors of the building were invaded because of this
strike," Meirelles told reporters in Brasilia.
Public transportation workers in the cities of Recife, Belo
Horizonte and Curitiba also pledged to join the strike. Striking
teachers and bankers shuttered some schools and banks in Rio de
Janeiro, where public transport was less affected.
Afternoon demonstrations on major avenues in Brazil's
biggest cities were expected to draw the biggest crowds, with
some wary of clashes with police.
The demonstrations reflect the deep ideological divide among
Brazilians as Temer seeks to pass the nation's most ambitious
pension, labor and tax reforms in two decades.
Last week, Temer acknowledged that his administration would
have to negotiate with Congress to win passage of the pension
Still, Meirelles and allied lawmakers say there is not much
room for changes to Temer's original proposal if the country
wants to reduce a record budget deficit that has undermined
(Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Brad Haynes;
Additional reporting by Marcela Ayres in Brasilia, Pedro Fonseca
and Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro; Editing by W Simon and
Lisa Von Ahn)