Portugal

Crisis and resistance in Portugal

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Mark Bergfeld recently attended the congress of the Left Bloc in Portugal and witnessed the general strike there a few days later. Here, he argues that Portugal is currently experiencing its biggest social and political upheaval since the 1974-5 Revolution

A day before the right wing coalition government in Portugal was to vote through its 2013 budget, the German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble met his Portuguese counterpart Vitor Gaspar and proclaimed, "Portugal is on the right path and is, for all of us in the eurozone, a brilliant example that the approach we have been following to stabilise the euro is correct." Schäuble went on to praise the "exceptional job" being performed by the Portuguese government.

Medicine not working

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Portugal became the third of the Eurozone "PIGS" (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) to apply for a bailout from the European Central Bank (ECB) last month.

For several months we've been told that the bailouts of Ireland and Greece had solved the Eurozone's problems once and for all. A Portuguese bailout was out of the question because measures had been taken to get the economy back on track. But jittery investors and credit ratings agencies have forced the decision.

Portugal's prime minister Jose Socrates failed to get parliament to accept his austerity package, amid anger and strikes from trade unions. His resignation triggered panic in the bond markets at the prospect of political limbo and social unrest.

Resistance across Europe

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Italy - Germany - Portugal - Spain

Italy: Italian finance minister Giulio Tremonti's attempts to drive through £22 billion in cuts are facing an updraft of resistance. On 16 October up to a million students and workers took to the streets in Rome against the austerity measures in a protest called by the metal workers' Fiom union. Fiom leader Maurizio Landini told workers that the next step was to plan a general strike.

Eurozone crisis: Portugal

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In Portugal two stages of austerity measures have been announced.

The first was cuts in social benefits and unemployment benefits which will be cut by around 15 percent. The rules have changed so now the unemployed are forced to accept jobs. This is social blackmail. The bosses and politicians want to force the unemployed to take lower-waged jobs and so push down wages for everyone. We are also facing cuts in public investment and a public sector wage freeze.

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