People protest during a nationwide general strike in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on April 28, 2017. Brazil's transportation, schools and businesses were brought to a halt on Friday as Brazilian unions launched a full-scale strike nationwide to protest the government's proposed austerity measures. (Xinhua/Rahel Patrasso)
BRASILIA, April 28 (Xinhua) -- A massive nationwide general strike on Friday to protest the government's proposed austerity measures disrupted flights to and from Brazil's two largest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Airport workers occupied the main entryway to the Congonhas airport in southern Sao Paulo, blocking those arriving or departing, and leading to flight delays or cancellations.
Some airlines also canceled flights prior to the strike, knowing the general work stoppage would make it difficult for passengers to reach the airport.
At the Guarulhos International Airport, also in Sao Paulo, no flights were canceled, though delays plagued scheduled flights, and at the Santos Dumont airport in Rio protests blocked access to passengers.
Brazil's largest unions called for the strike to protest draconian measures to lower the public deficit, including raising the retirement age and slashing government welfare programs.
Pilots and onboard crews originally planned to join the strike, but changed their minds after government authorities indicated they would exempt them from the labor reforms.
But workers belonging to some 92 different unions, including in the areas of healthcare, security, public transit and the penitentiary system, joined the work stoppage.
Despite obvious mass participation in the general strike -- with stores and business closed, and public transit stopped, Brazil's mainstream media appeared to downplay the scale of the protest, providing little coverage of the day's events, or focused only on isolated violent clashes and other negative aspects.
Brazil's former President and political leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva described the strike as "a complete success."
In an interview with Red Brasil Actual radio, Lula said "the unionized movement and the Brazilians are making history. People stayed at home. That is a clear sign that people decided to strike against the suppression of their rights."
He noted the government of President Michel Temer claimed the country's economic situation would improve with ex-president Dilma Rousseff out of the way, but that has not happened.
Temer helped impeach Rousseff for allegedly mismanaging fiscal affairs.
"Destroying (people's) rights does not improve anyone's life," said Lula, calling on the government to stop targeting pensions and social welfare programs as a way to grow the economy.