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Portugal social protest fury grows

Portugal social protest fury grows
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Analysts have been calling Portugal a political time bomb for quite a while. The ticking is growing louder.

The Speaker of the chamber, Assunção Esteves, implored an angry, vocal throng in the gallery of the national parliament in Lisbon: “Please leave!”

The scene was unprecedented, Portuguese people on Wednesday showing how far their politicians had exasperated them in such a peaceful country.

The president admitted a failure yesterday when he asked all the parties to seek an agreement urgently, and he promised early elections, next year.

Anibal Cavaco Silva said: “I will give my firm support to such a deal, which, in the present emergency truly represents a national salvation commitment.”

Since May 2011, Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho has applied a radical austerity plan in exchange for a 78 billion euro bailout from the IMF, ECB and EU. But improvements have not materialised. After two years of that, much of the country is sorely frustrated. These law students hung him in effigy when he visited Lisbon University in February; his name means ‘rabbit’.

One student said: “This has a symbolic meaning; we do not wish death on anyone, but we want his policy and the measures they are taking killed!”

Strict application of austerity did not produce the desired results, on the contrary, it plunged to country into recession, with the economy predicted to shrink by 2.3 percent of GDP this year, accompanied by more than 18 percent unemployment.

Nuno Santos, out of a job, said: “I do what I can. I live with my mother, otherwise I would be on the street. I don’t get any help from the government.”

The number of children in families where parents have lost their jobs and so the young ones are not being properly fed has risen to 13,000.

Primary school teacher Ana-Lucia Silva said: “There are children who don’t get milk in the morning and who go out at playtime saying, ‘I’m hungry’

School canteens have stepped in to protect the smallest from falling into the social gaps. Dozens of towns are keeping the canteens running even during the summer holiday.”