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The Associated Press November 22, 2011, 8:56AM ET

500 Romanian retirees protest pension freeze

Hundreds of retirees from all over Romania have gathered outside the government headquarters to protest a freeze on pensions.

"Don't bury retirees alive!" and "Down with (President Traian) Basescu" they yelled Tuesday during the two-hour protest.

Last week, Basescu said the government couldn't afford to increase pensions this year. That came after the International Monetary Fund said Romania could afford to slightly raise pensions because it had reduced public spending.

Romania signed up for a euro20 billion ($26.5 billion) loan with the IMF, European Union and World Bank in 2009 to help pay salaries and pensions, when the economy shrunk by more than 7 percent.

Last year the government hiked sales tax from 19 to 24 percent, and cut public workers salaries and welfare benefits to reduce the budget deficit. Romania has around 6 million retirees.

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