Brazil Gripped by General Strike Over Austerity Measures

Indeed, some problems are glaring. The pension system allows many Brazilians to retire in their 50s, causing deficits to balloon and depleting resources for basic services like education and health care. And some economists contend that byzantine labor laws stymie competitiveness and prevent companies from hiring more workers.

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Riot police officers fired tear gas at demonstrators in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, on Friday.

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Andre Penner/Associated Press

“The majority of people in this strike are union members defending personal interests,” said Joel Matos, 49, an engineer in Rio who hurried to work on Friday in the rain, grasping an umbrella. Mr. Matos, explaining that he was “neutral” on Mr. Temer’s overhauls, said, “Some changes will not change our lives. Others have already happened, like outsourcing.”

Still, even at a time when the leftist Workers’ Party of Ms. Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is also marred by its own graft scandals, the ability of unions to organize the strike reflected broad dissatisfaction with Mr. Temer and his allies in Brazil’s political establishment.

A poll in April showed that 92 percent of Brazilians thought the country was on the wrong path, with Mr. Temer’s own approval rating standing at just 4 percent. The survey by Ipsos, a global market research company, was conducted from April 1 to 12 in face-to-face interviews with 1,200 people with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

While pushing for the austerity policies, Mr. Temer’s allies in the Senate also seem to have another priority: curbing graft inquiries. With nearly a third of its members under investigation for corruption, the Senate voted this week to punish prosecutors for so-called abuses of power, a…

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