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article imageProtests mark Angela Merkel's visit to Lisbon, Portugal (video)

By Anne Sewell     Nov 13, 2012 in World
Lisbon - During Angela Merkel's visit to Lisbon, protesters gathered peacefully to denounce Germany's decision to back a recent series of austerity measures in the bailed-out Eurozone state.
Playing with puppets representing Portugal's Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho (L), Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in front of the presidential palace, dozens of protesters demonstrated against Merkel's visit to the city.
Merkel met with the Portuguese President on Monday at the Palace of Belem in Lisbon. She also held talks with Prime Minister Coelho and attended a conference by leading German and Portuguese corporations.
Merkel told a joint news conference with Coelho that "The program is being applied by Portugal in an excellent manner. It is a great exploit."
"My visit is a chance to get to know the country better and to bring hope. I sense a great determination to overcome a difficult situation. Germany wants to support Portugal."
However, protesters did not agree with her. Amidst a heavy police presence, white- and blue-collar workers joined with city students, draping statues in black mourning sashes to ‘mourn’ the German chancellor’s visit, carrying banners with slogans like ‘Merkel, no!’ and ‘Get out!’ Other banners had a Nazi theme, and said 'Merkel Nazi, Go Away!' and, in German, 'Merkel Raus' (Merkel Out).
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Artwork has sprung up all over the city, portraying Merkel as a puppet-master and also as a gambler in a casino, playing with Portugal's future (above left).
One protester told RT, "These measures have been killing us, they give us no future, its only bringing unemployment and misery."
Euronews reported that São José Lapa, a well-known Portuguese actress, was among 100 Portuguese academics and intellectuals who signed an open letter to Chancellor Merkel to tell her she is unwelcome in the country, reading:
“I want to say to Mrs. Merkel: ‘You have to stop putting your paws in all the countries of Europe that have great problems like ours. It’s an indecency to our nationality. You seem like you are the owner, that this is your territory’.”
A protest leader in the “Que se lixe a troika” (Damn the troika) movement, Marco Marques, said, “She’s not coming to re-evaluate her policies, she’s coming to sell Portugal. She is coming to Portugal with a group of businessmen to diagnose the misery.”
On Monday, a Portuguese daily newspaper, Informacao, ran a photo of Merkel on the front page, captioned with ‘Hail Angela, those who are about to die salute you!’
Merkel told Rádio e Televisão de Portugal in an interview on Sunday, “People can't see the results yet, but the results will come.” while praising Lisbon for carrying out economic reforms and spending cuts, in return for a 78-billion-euro bailout package.
Portugal's main trade union confederation is planning a 24-hour general strike for Wednesday, along with several other European countries.
The reason for so much upset and protest in Portugal is the austerity budget for 2013, adopted by Portugal's center-right governing coalition government last month, which includes steep public spending cuts and tax increases. The final vote for this budget is set to take place on Tuesday and it is hoped that this budget will generate 5.3 billion euros, mainly through tax hikes.
With Portugal facing its worst economic crisis since the 1970's, and unemployment soaring to 16%, officials from the "Troika" (the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and other EU member states) are about to begin their sixth quarterly review of Portugal's implementation of the bailout conditions.
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