Brazilians protest against reforms to pension system

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Thousands of Brazilians staged protests across the country against planned pension reforms.

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in protests across Brazil against planned reforms to the pension system.

In the capital Brasilia, hundreds occupied the finance ministry, while in Sao Paulo, demonstrators brought traffic to a standstill.

President Michel Temer says capping pension benefits and raising retirement age is needed to fix the country's finances.

Brazil is going through its worst recession in more than a century.

The government plans to set the minimum age of retirement at 65. The decision has provoked much anger, as many people are able to draw their pension at 54.

But President Temer said the reform was needed to prevent a collapse of the pension system.

"No one will have their rights taken away," he said on Wednesday, and he described the planned reforms as necessary to save "the benefits of today's retirees and of the young who will retire tomorrow".

President Temer said the austerity measures were needed now, in order to prevent a future crisis such as that suffered by Portugal, Spain or Greece.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The Finance Ministry was occupied for several hours by protestors angry at planned pension reforms
Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The decision to set the minimum age of retirement at 65 has provoked much anger

However, protesters are not convinced by the president's arguments.

"We're on strike for the future of the country," said Mirna Aragon, a teacher protesting in Rio de Janeiro.

The opposition says President Temer is punishing ordinary Brazilians, who are already suffering from a record 12.6% unemployment rate, around 13 million jobless.