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Thousands protest in Lisbon

Thousands of people massed in Lisbon on Saturday in a protest against austerity measures ahead of next week's talks with international creditors, unions said.

Demonstrators arrived from across the country, some brandishing banners such as “The struggle continues”, “No to exploitation, no to inequality, no to impoverishment” and “Another policy is possible and necessary.”

“We are convinced that it is one of the biggest demonstrations in recent years,” said Armenio Carlos, general secretary of the CGTP union which called the protest that converged in the city's landmark Praca do Comercio (Commerce Square).

The protest comes just days before officials from the so-called Troika - the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - arrive in Portugal on their latest mission to evaluate progress on the country's bailout programme.

In exchange for a loan of 78 billion euros ($103 billion) from the EU and the IMF last May, Portugal agreed to sell public companies as well as implement labour reforms such as shorter holidays.

However, the austerity measures have hurt the population.

“My purchasing power has fallen, young people are unemployed, companies are closing one after another. I don't see a way out,” said a Lisbon retiree.

A former textile worker who has been unemployed for the past three years said: “Today I have to live with a pension of 419 euros, but I pay rent of 150. It's unsustainable.”

Separately, about 50 people from northern Portugal's Valadares ceramic industry also demonstrated before the Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho's official residence on Saturday.

“Yes to jobs, no to unemployment,” chanted the workers, who handed a letter detailing their complaints to a policeman guarding the property.

“We cannot continue to work without pay,” they shouted. - Sapa-AFP

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