Brazilian protesters clash with police over pension reforms and education cuts

Brazil markets spooked by minister's complaints on pension reform

Brazil markets spooked by minister's complaints on pension reform

The nationwide strike was called by Brazil's unions and mainly targeted the pension reform Bolsonaro is now pushing for in Congress, but it comes on the heels of massive protests in May against steep cuts to the public education system and amid discontent over an economic downturn.

The one-day protest called by unions - the second general strike in Brazil in two years - affected public transport in São Paulo, the country's largest city, where subway workers joined the strike.

Police used stun grenades on protesters in Rio de Janeiro. In several cities, roads were blocked with burning tyres.

The administration aims to raise the retirement age to 65 for men and 62 for women and increase workers' contributions.

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After clashes with lawmakers in recent months, Guedes had struck a more conciliatory tone, contributing to investors' hopes for a swift approval of the landmark reform to boost public finances. It is the first strike since Mr. Bolsonaro took office in January 2019. Many schools, universities, banks and parts of the state-run oil company Petrobras were also not working. Regardless, many view the reform as the only way to revive the country's flagging economy. The government estimates that the plan will result in the savings of around $237 billion in the next ten years. The government sees the plans as a way to help out the struggling economy. The president spoke to reporters and said he was confident that Congress would give the green light to the reform.

The Congress will likely start voting on the reform in the next few weeks.

The number of protesters is expected to balloon in the afternoon with demonstrations planned in Brazil's major cities.

Brazil's economy minister and lower house speaker exchanged harsh words on Friday over progress on pension reform, creating another drag on Brazilian financial assets already feeling the heat from global market weakness. In some cities, people took the streets to show their disapproval for the cuts to the education budget. In the city of Niterói, near Rio, at least two people were injured when a auto ran over a group of protesters blocking a street. 2016 also saw the same drop in GDP.

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