Police in Rio shoot tear gas during protest over budget cuts

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Military police on Wednesday shot pepper spray at demonstrators who broke down barrier fences outside a meeting where legislators were considering austerity measures to cope with a deepening financial crisis that has kept thousands of public workers from being paid.

The federal government sent hundreds of military police to help after a similar protest last week became violent. Wielding shields and pepper spray guns, helmet-clad police formed lines in front of the legislative assembly of Rio de Janeiro state. Over several hours, protesters broke fences in various areas in attempts to get inside.

Violent protests “don’t bring any benefit,” Gov. Luiz Fernando Pezao told reporters earlier in the day, urging protesters to “take their ideas inside parliament to resolve this crisis, which isn’t just in Rio de Janeiro, but in all of Brazil.”

The state is mired in fiscal crisis just months after its signature city, Rio de Janeiro, hosted the 2016 Olympics. Thousands of state employees have not been paid, or have been paid months late.

The federal government has said it won’t bail the state out, fearing that a cascade of states could ask for help.

Latin America’s largest economy is suffering its worst recession in decades. Both unemployment and inflation are over 10 percent, and announcements of layoffs are a daily occurrence.

Measures being discussed by Rio legislators include trimming social services and lowering the salary of top officials.

Meanwhile, a group of protesters broke inside the lower house of congress, the Chamber of Deputies, in Brasilia on Wednesday. Images on Globo news showed about 50 people interrupting a session. They gathered in the middle of the plenary, chanting that they wanted a return to military rule.

The transmission of the session was stopped and police arrived shortly thereafter.