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Brazil's president praises protests as unrest continues

4 min

Protesters angry about a bus fare rise and growing cost of living kept up the pressure on Brazil’s government with new demonstrations in the country’s biggest cities on Tuesday, even as President Dilma Rousseff scrambled to diffuse tensions.


Demonstrations continued in several Brazilian cities, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, on Tuesday; with thousands rallying to express anger over a rise in bus fares and the cost of living in the South American nation that is preparing to host the World Cup next year.

Around 50,000 people returned to the streets of Sao Paulo overnight for largely peaceful rally, a day after an estimated 250,000 marched across the country in the largest show of public unrest in 20 years.

The protest began peacefully in the plaza in central Sao Paulo but became increasingly violent outside City Hall, where a group clashed with police and tried to break into the building.

There was also significant looting on the sidelines of the march in Sao Paulo, with police arresting at least 30 people, according to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

As many as 50,000 people also gathered in the southern city of Florianopolis, blocking traffic on two important auto bridges, with some scuffles between protesters, police and motorists.

Vandalism and clashes between protesters and police were also reported in Belo Horizonte, with military police arresting 15 people.

Protests also hit the Internet, with activists knocking out the government’s official website for the 2014 World Cup, and hacking into several prominent Twitter accounts belonging to the media to post messages urging people to join demonstrations.

Government tries to quell fire

President Dilma Rousseff once again struck a conciliatory tone, saying in a televised speech on Tuesday that the demonstrations were legitimate and that her government was still committed to social change.

While the protests that began over the weekend originally targeted a planned 10-cent bump in bus fares, demonstrators have since expressed anger at widespread corruption and inadequate infrastructure and public services.

“Brazil woke up stronger today,” Rousseff, who is facing re-election next year, said from the capital of Brasilia. “The size of [Monday’s] demonstrations shows the energy of our democracy, the strength of the voice of the streets and the civility of our population.”

“My government hears the voices clamouring for change…those who took to the streets yesterday sent a clear message to all of society, above all to political leaders at all
levels of government,” the president, who hails from the left-leaning Worker’s Party, added.

Rousseff then travelled to Sao Paulo to meet with former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is her political mentor and who as a union boss led massive protests against the government in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, officials in at least five cities, including Porto Alegre and Recife, announced plans to lower bus fares.

Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad, also a prominent figure in Rousseff's party, said at a meeting with leaders of the protest movement that he is considering a cut in bus fares but needs to find ways to compensate for the loss in revenue.


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