Crowds rallied in the old centre of the capital Lisbon and marched towards parliament, while rallies were also staged in the northern city of Porto and 12 other towns, in demos called by a citizens’ collective known as “Get lost, troika”.
The word troika refers to the three international bodies that agreed Portugal’s 78 billion euro ($108 billion) rescue deal in 2011 — the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.
In return for the bailout money to prevent the indebted country from financial collapse, the troika demanded economic reforms to get Portugal’s public deficit down to four percent of output by 2014.
Protestors in Lisbon on Saturday waved banners and signs calling for the government to resign and for a referendum on euro membership, plus messages such as “No to the troika, no to hunger.”
“The only aim of the austerity policies is to cut salaries and pensions, impoverish the population and dismantle the public services,” the citizens’ collective that organised the demonstrations said in a statement.
The group had already mobilised massive street protests in September 2012 and in March this year, and called Saturday’s demos in protest at the budget announced by the government for 2014.
The rally in Lisbon at the start appeared much smaller however than those previous two, which drew hundreds of thousands of people.
Portugal’s conservative government this month said it would further cut public sector salaries and pensions as part of a budget that aims to save another 3.9 billion euros.
Labour unions have called a strike by public sector workers for November 8, among various other demonstrations and stoppages.
The government has shown no sign of changing course in its reforms despite the protests, hoping to complete the bailout programme by next June.