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Austerity

Published February 25th, 2012

Ever since April 6 of 2011, Portugal has been living under the ominous trifecta of IMF, ECB and European Commission. We have a government, yes, but since the money that keeps the country moving is being “generously” loaned by this entities, they gave themselves the right to tell how the state does its thing. And their remedy for our unbalanced budget and growing debt is austerity. It is the latest trend in economic and financial policies in this continent. Applicable where and when there is a slight case of economic woe, or financial market distrust. Look how well it's going in Greece.

The thing is, those measures destined to reduce government spending are mostly hurting low income people, who need them to, let's say, have a roof over their heads, or eat, or survive. Most of the country, considering there is now a 13.5% unemployed rate, about one third of young people can't find a job and those who can are greeted with a minimum wage of 485€. The ones who live through that are treated to a pension that can be inferior to 400€ (as low as 254€). Need medicine, old men? Too bad, you can't afford it. Oh, never mind, you probably don't even have a doctor to prescribe them. There is one 30 km away. What, you don't have a car? Use the bus… oh wait, those are gone to… or too expensive.

For people that have been promised paradises by government after government, this is a harsh reality. And they show it. Strike after strike, protest after protest, tired of being stripped of rights and seeing the cost of bad management of public funds go unpunished (even the seemingly criminal behavior), crowds gather in the streets, wave flags, beg for mercy and threaten to escalate if the states takes even more from them. There has been already some violence and small riots, but fortunately still far away from the extreme situations from Greece. However, the more is taken in the name of austerity, the less there is too loose. And when is nothing less to loose, all bets are off.

On The Way

The Prep Work

Anti-austerity measures protest in Lisbon, promoted by the largest syndicalist movement in Portugal.

Protesters

Anti-austerity measures protest in Lisbon, promoted by the largest syndicalist movement in Portugal.

The Press

Anti-austerity measures protest in Lisbon, promoted by the largest syndicalist movement in Portugal.

Almost as important as the protest itself is the presence of the media, to make sure there are headlines and live broadcasts. After all, if a tree falls in the forest and nowhere is there to listen, does it make a sound?

Standard Bearers

Anti-austerity measures protest in Lisbon, promoted by the largest syndicalist movement in Portugal.

Place of Power

Anti-austerity measures protest in Lisbon, promoted by the largest syndicalist movement in Portugal.

Terreiro do Paço (the place pictured was once the heart of the Portuguese Empire, where the exotic products from the world were disembarked, where trading flourished and where royalty and government where housed. It still holds some government branches, but it is no longer the place of power it once was. The only thing left is the importance in the cultural memory of Portugal.

Zé Povinho

Anti-austerity measures protest in Lisbon, promoted by the largest syndicalist movement in Portugal.

Zé Povinho is the Portuguese equivalent for Guy Fawkes. Except instead trying to blow the powerful away, he openly mocks them.

The Herald

Anti-austerity measures protest in Lisbon, promoted by the largest syndicalist movement in Portugal.

The Old Guard

Anti-austerity measures protest in Lisbon, promoted by the largest syndicalist movement in Portugal.

The ones that suffer the most with the austerity measures are low income families and people, such as pensioners/retirees, that after working an entire life excepted more than they are getting.

The Gathering

Anti-austerity measures protest in Lisbon, promoted by the largest syndicalist movement in Portugal.

This was their final destination, Terreiro do Paço, where, according to the organization, 300.000 people have passed during that afternoon.

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