Brazil has taken a major step towards imposing a limit on public spending for 20 years. The Senate has approved the move, a crucial part of an austerity drive aimed at pulling the country out of recession.
“Yes: 53. No: 16. No abstentions. The basic text is approved,” the Senate President Renan Calheiros announced after the vote approving the cap by constitutional amendment, comfortably exceeding the three-fifths required majority.
Senators still need to vote on some details of the bill, including whether to exempt education and health from the spending limits.
President Michel Temer, who took office earlier this year, has promised to control a growing budget deficit.
He says the cap – which limits government spending to the rate of inflation for 20 years – will be followed by a reform of Brazil’s pension system.
The vote in the Senate prompted demonstrations across the country as people called for the president to resign. Protesters argue the cuts will undermine education and health services and will hurt the poor in Brazil.
They also say capping spending for two decades is unrealistic.
“There is nothing to say. You can’t just throw away or freeze the future of millions of Brazilians for 20 years. Today the Senators approved a great step backwards for the whole country,” said Jose Rocha, a young protester in Sao Paulo.
The protests turned violent in Brazil’s largest city, where some demonstrators attacked Sao Paulo’s industry federation headquarters. Windows were smashed and flares fired at the building.
There was also violence in several other states and cities, including in the capital Brasilia which saw clashes outside the National Congress.
The government is threatened by accusations of corruption as well as deep frustration in the country at economic hardship.