By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Brazilian officials are bracing for what may become a significant nationwide protest today, Friday June 30th, against the government’s labor and social security reform bills in Congress.
Demonstrations have been reported around the country, as groups block large urban highways and public transportation comes to a halt in many Brazilian cities.
In Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, bus companies decided to keep their vehicles in their lots, and the city woke up to empty streets and thousands of workers wondering how to get to work. Since 5AM men from the National Military Force have been guarding ministry buildings against protesters expected to demonstrate in the Ministry Mall area during the day.
In Belo Horizonte, metro workers have adhered to the strike, despite the threat of heavy fines, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.
According to João Luiz Dourado, president of CUT/MT, the general strike is the only alternative workers have at this moment to show their discontent. “The Temer Government and the National Congress are partners of bankers and businessmen, who press for the (reform) bill. They want to end all rights, tear up labor laws, outsource all workers and return to the period of slavery,” said the labor leader in the entity’s website.
In Rio de Janeiro, one of the main highways leading into the city, Linha Vermelha (Red Line), was blocked early Friday morning with protesters. Police also had to disperse crowds outside Rio’s Tom Jobim International Airport and Santos Dumont Airport, used for domestic routes. Public transportation, however, continued to operate normally during the morning rush hours.
In São Paulo, bus and metro services companies decided not to adhere to the national strike, but is encouraging its workers and São Paulo residents to attend the afternoon demonstrations scheduled in several locations throughout the city. The city, however, felt the consequences of blocked highways and major thoroughfares, registered by traffic jams throughout the city.
Demonstrators closed off the main road leading to São Paulo’s International Airport, forcing some passengers to abandon cars and taxis and walk to terminals to catch their flights. At the city’s domestic airport, Congonhas, demonstrators marched through the terminal yelling “Fora Temer” (Temer Out).
Union leaders are calling for protesters to demonstrate against the two bills throughout the day on Friday, closing roads and arteries going into the major Brazilian cities.