Protesters, cops clash as Brazil limits public spending for 20 years

Brasilia, Dec 14 (IANS) Hundreds of protesters squared off with police here on Tuesday after the Brazilian Senate approved a controversial bill that will limit public spending growth to the inflation rate for the next 20 years.

Two police and one protester were injured in the nearly two-hour-long confrontation, EFE news quoted authorities as saying.

Some 2,000 protesters, according to organisers, took part in the mobilisation, which degenerated into a pitched battle with the more than 1,000 police deployed in the centre of Brasilia ahead of the Senate vote on the unpopular spending cap.

A crowd made up mainly of students and union members hurled rocks and bottles at the cops, who responded with tear gas, pepper spray and charges by mounted officers.

Police were able to keep the protesters away from Congress, the Supreme Court, the presidential palace and other potential targets on the capital’s Esplanade of the Ministries.

The security forces eventually pushed the demonstrators to the city’s main bus terminal, where some among the crowd set fire to a bus.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and business capital, roughly 4,000 people occupied the financial district in a protest against the Senate’s approval of the centrepiece of President Michel Temer’s austerity programme.

The demonstrators in Sao Paulo waved placards with slogans such as “Temer Out” and “Return Madame President”, a reference to Dilma Rousseff, the elected head of state who was ousted by Congress three months ago for alleged budget irregularities.

Protesters in the northeastern city of Recife blocked roads with piles of burning tires.

A poll released on Tuesday showed that 60 per cent of Brazilians opposed the spending cap, which is part of the aggressive right-wing agenda pursued by Temer since he replaced the social democrat Rousseff.