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European Commission presidency candidate defends Portugal austerity as best way to create jobs

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LISBON, Portugal - European Commission presidency candidate Jean-Claude Juncker has defended Portugal's continuing austerity program as it frees itself from a three-year bailout program that saved the country from collapse.

Juncker, who is campaigning in Lisbon on Sunday, said Portugal made a "clean exit" from the worst financial crisis since World War II but needed to avoid future debt to create growth and jobs.

He said it was "mountains of debt" that got Europe into trouble, and that debt was deeply anti-democratic because countries lumbered with it quickly become fair game for the markets and "the victim of speculators."

Portugal became the second eurozone country after Ireland to free itself from the austerity and oversight imposed by its European partners and the International Monetary Fund as part of its 78-billion-euro ($107 billion) bailout.

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