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PORTSIDE  November 2010, Week 4

PORTSIDE November 2010, Week 4

Subject:

Poverty Fuels Anger During General Strike in Portugal

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Date:

Wed, 24 Nov 2010 14:59:09 -0500

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Poverty Fuels Anger During General Strike in Portugal

By Emilio Rappold 
Monsters and Critics
Nov 24, 201
http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/business/features/article_1601310.php/Poverty-fuels-anger-during-general-strike-in-Portugal-News-Feature

Lisbon - Fatima, 82, barely has enough to eat herself,
yet she has come to distribute bread buns to pickets in
front of a Lisbon post office to express her support
for Wednesday's general strike in Portugal.

'I fully back the strike, because we are hungry,' she
fumes.

'Two of my three sons have no job,' the petite woman
complains. 'When did we last see such a situation in
Portugal?'

Anger over tightening economic conditions and the
perception of a social injustice boosted support for
the strike, the biggest in Portugal since 1988.

'This is without doubt the worst crisis' since the
Carnation Revolution ended a four-decade, right-wing
dictatorship in 1974, says Eugenio Fonseca, president
of the Portuguese branch of the Catholic organization
Caritas which comes to the aid of the poor.

The number of people helped by Caritas soared by 30 per
cent to more than 60,000 this year - and the
organization says it does not have enough resources to
attend to all those in need.

About 600,000 Portuguese aged over 65 years are
undernourished or even suffer from outright hunger,
according to a recent study by the organization
NutriAction.

The social organization Banco Alimentar, which feeds
about 240,000 people daily, says 27 per cent of the 10-
million-strong population goes without eating at least
one day per month.

'People are furious. They have no future perspectives,'
Banco Alimentar head Isabel Jonet said.

'But the poor do not allow themselves to be
manipulated,' she told the weekly Expresso. 'If the
state tries to do that, it will get dangerous here,'
she warned.

There is not much hope of the situation improving soon,
says Eva Gaspar, editor-in-chief of the economic
newspaper Jornal de Negocios.

'The social situation is getting worse,' she told the
German Press Agency dpa. 'We have a record unemployment
(of over 10 per cent). But an even worse aspect is,
that people remain unemployed for longer and longer
periods.'

'And only about half of the jobless get financial
support from the state,' Gaspar explained.

One of the main reasons for the growth of poverty is an
unfair taxation system, Caritas' Fonseca believes.

While big companies and rich Portuguese often pay few
taxes, Prime Minister Jose Socrates' government is
trying to fix Portugal's economic woes by squeezing
more money out of the poor and the middle classes,
other critics complain.

The strike was protesting an austerity budget aimed at
restoring the confidence of financial markets amid
concern that Portugal might need an international
bailout similar to those requested by Greece and
Ireland.

The austerity budget, which is expected to get the
definitive seal of approval from parliament on Friday,
slashes public sector salaries by 5 per cent, freezes
pensions, raises value added and income tax, and cuts
social spending.

Socrates' economic policies 'demand too many sacrifices
from workers, while leaving out many (wealthy citizens)
who could pay much more,' said Joao Proenca, leader of
the trade union confederation UGT.

'I will only have soup for supper,' Fatima grumbled.
'Socrates should not sleep peacefully tonight.'

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