Brazil Second Biggest Union Urges Mantega to Quit Amid Protest

Brazil’s second biggest union federation urged Finance Minister Guido Mantega to step down as workers today took to the streets to demand a shorter work week and more investments in health and education.

“Mantega lost the right to direct the economy because he no longer has any credibility,” Paulo Pereira da Silva, the president of union federation Forca Sindical, said by phone from Sao Paulo. “The market, businessmen, workers -- no one believes him.”

Silva said President Dilma Rousseff also needs to replace central bank governor Alexandre Tombini, who yesterday raised the benchmark interest rate for a third consecutive meeting in a bid to slow inflation that breeched the upper limit of its target range.

Economic growth last year was the slowest since the world’s second biggest emerging market contracted in 2009 in the aftermath of Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc.’s collapse. Surging consumer prices threaten to slow consumer spending and stymie this year’s economic recovery.

The International Monetary Fund this week cut Brazil’s gross domestic product growth forecast to 2.5 percent from its 3.4 percent estimate in April. The Washington-based lender forecasts emerging markets will expand 5 percent in 2013.

Unionized workers held up signs to fire Mantega as they also demonstrated today for agrarian and political reforms. The unrest follows nationwide protests last month for an end to government corruption and improved public services.

Economic Policy

Brazil’s biggest labor federation, known as CUT, also participated in today’s protests and criticized the government’s economic policy, while stopping short of calling for anyone’s dismissal. The demonstrations were smaller that last month’s protests that drew more than 1 million people.

The main highway leading from Sao Paulo city was blocked by 5,000 protesters, with smaller demonstrations interrupting traffic across the greater Sao Paulo area, according to the Military Police’s Twitter page. Highways in 13 other states were blocked by protests, with the biggest disruptions in Rio Grande do Sul, according to O Globo’s G1 website.

Also joining today’s demonstration was the Free Fare Movement, whose protest against a 20-centavo (9 cents) bus fare increase sparked last month’s nationwide protests.

More than 22,000 workers in 20 factories in Sao Paulo state participated in the strike, stopping production at General Motors Co., Embraer SA, Avibras Industria Aeroespacial and TI Automotive Ltd., Shirley Rodrigues, spokeswoman for the metalworkers union, said by phone.

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