Portugal Defense Minister Warns Against General Strike

Tehran Times, 26 August 2002

LISBON—Portugal's Defense Minister warned leftist parties and unions considering a general strike that supporters of the center-right government would face opponents “in the streets”.

Defense Minister Paulo Portas said late on Saturday that the five-month-old government would confront the opposition in Parliament and its supporters would counter leftist protests against economic and labor reforms.

“If they want struggle in the streets, we also know how to go to the streets. The plazas of Portugal are free,” Portas, head of the Anti-Immigrant Popular Party, told a party rally. “The people should come out to say, ‘we are with change, we are with reforms, we want a country that is in order’.”

Union leaders have raised the prospect of a general strike to oppose Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso's belt-tightening economic policies and proposed labor reforms that would make it easier to fire workers, Reuters reported.

The coalition government headed by Durao Barroso, a social democrat, wants “general work” instead of a general strike sought by its opponents, Portas said in remarks broadcast on radio and television.

Portugal, one of the poorest countries in the 15-nation European Union (EU), has seen an upsurge of strikes and street protests against government policies. The government is wrestling to close a budget deficit that last year breached EU limits.