Eurozone crisis: Portugal protests against austerity

media captionThe BBC's Alison Roberts says there are a number of different groups including health workers marching through the centre of Lisbon.

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in protests across Portugal against government austerity measures.

Huge crowds gathered in the capital Lisbon to demand the government resign.

Many carried placards condemning the "Troika" of the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, which demanded budget cuts in return for a financial bailout.

The conservative government has introduced steep tax rises as it tries to reduce a huge budget deficit.

Unemployment is at a record 17.6% and the economy is expected to contract by 2% this year - the third straight year of recession.

The demonstrations organised on social media also have the backing of Portugal's main trade union federation.

'Austerity kills'

On Saturday, organisers said as many as 500,000 protested in Lisbon, and hundreds of thousands more in other towns and cities.

The rallies coincide with a visit by inspectors from the EU and the IMF, which demanded austerity measures as a condition for a 78bn-euro (£64bn) bailout in 2011.

Protesters carried banners with slogans such as "Austerity Kills" and "Screw the Troika".

They also chanted a popular song "Grandola" associated with the 1974 "Carnation Revolution" that brought an end to dictatorship.

"This government has left the people on bread and water, selling off state assets for peanuts to pay back debts that were contracted by corrupt politicians to benefit bankers," film director Fabio Carvalho, who was among the protesters in Lisbon, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

"If not today, things have to change tomorrow and we need to remain in the streets for the government to fall."

The demonstrators are demanding a complete change of course from the government, but it says further spending cuts are necessary to revive the economy.

This year's budget was Portugal's toughest in living memory, imposing tax rises that for many workers amount to a month's wages.

But the gloomy economic outlook means it will almost certainly have to find more saving, the BBC's Alison Roberts in Lisbon says.