Millions of commuters were stranded nationwide Tuesday as public transportation shut down at the start of a 48-hour general strike called by leftist labor groups.

However, many Brazilians ignored the strike call and went to work.The subway in Sao Paulo, the nation's largest city with 10 million people, operated normally, as did a small number of privately owned buses. But the city's public bus fleet was idled.

In greater Sao Paulo, with a population of 15 million, more than 70 percent of the 2 million factory workers showed up at their jobs, according to the Federation of Industries of Sao Paulo State.

The city's suburbs are home to Brazil's foreign-owned auto plants - including General Motors, Ford and Volkswagen - and a center of strike organization.

International and domestic airlines flew on normal schedules, and supermarkets, gas stations, small shops and corner cafes opened.

Brazil's two largest labor movements - the radical left Central Workers Union and the more moderate General Workers Central - called the strike to protest President Jose Sarney's anti-inflation policy, which has frozen workers' pay since January.

"I would say we can consider the strike a success. I am sure that as the day progresses the strike will grow," Sergio dos Santos said in a telephone interview early Tuesday from strike headquarters in Sao Paulo.

Some violence was reported. In Sao Paulo, rock-throwers damaged about 30 buses and one person was arrested, police said.

In Rio de Janeiro, the nation's second-largest city, strikers threw stones and punctured tires of some privately owned buses that attempted to operate. City-owned buses did not run.

Police with billy clubs beat and detained several people accused of trying to loot stores in Caxias, on the northern outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.

A photographer of the Jornal do Brasil newspaper who was taking pictures of the beatings was shot in the hand by a policeman, according to the Jornal do Brasil radio station, which is owned by the newspaper.

Sarney's centrist government warned it would not allow violence and accused the labor groups of trying to seize control of Latin America's largest country.