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Anti-austerity protesters clash with police in Rio


Demonstrators set a roadblock on fire outside the state legislature in Rio de Janeiro (AP)

Demonstrators set a roadblock on fire outside the state legislature in Rio de Janeiro (AP)

Demonstrators set a roadblock on fire outside the state legislature in Rio de Janeiro (AP)

Police and protesters have clashed outside the Rio de Janeiro state legislature during a demonstration against government austerity measures being discussed by policymakers.

Protester s threw homemade grenades and fired rockets toward the assembly, and police responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.

Tear gas apparently wafted into the assembly itself, with a photo on the G1 news portal showing some legislators wearing medical masks in the chamber.

The confrontations took place over several blocks around the legislature and lasted about five hours before protesters dispersed. At one point, police entered a church and fired on protesters from there.

Eleven officers were injured in the clashes, according to a statement from military police. There also were reports of protesters being injured.

The protests come amid growing anger at politicians in Brazil, where a sprawling corruption scandal has implicated several elected officials and leading business executives.

In Rio, this anger is exacerbated by a state government financial crisis that has seen thousands of state employees and retirees not getting paid or being paid months late.

State workers have staged numerous protests against austerity measures in Rio, and many of those in the latest demo were firefighters.

"As you can see here in Brazil, we have thieves leaving government, thieves entering government, thieves in the state government, thieves in the federal government," said Ronaldo Moreno, a spokesman for the oil workers' union in Rio. "What is happening today is a fight by public workers, but it is a fight by everyone."

On Tuesday, legislators voted to eliminate some of their own benefits and cut the salaries of the governor and other senior officials, among other austerity measures.

With the country in its worst recession in decades, other Brazilian states are facing budget crunches, b ut Rio's situation has drawn particular anger since it comes months after it hosted the 2016 Olympics.

Many fear that austerity measures will hamper already cash-strapped police amid a deteriorating security situation. Others blame the cash shortfalls on corruption.

As part of the country's wide-ranging corruption investigation, prosecutors on Tuesday ordered that the wife of a former Rio governor be taken into preventative custody. Both Sergio Cabral, who is also in custody, and his wife Adriana Ancelmo face corruption charges.

Prosecutors say Cabral accepted bribes from several companies in exchange for help securing building contracts. In total, he received tens of millions of dollars in a scheme that included laundering money through the writing of fake contracts and buying luxury goods, investigators allege. Ancelmo is also facing charges that she laundered money.