News / Americas

Brazil Protests Proceed as Smaller Cities Join In

Riot police take position and fire tear gas at protesters gathering near Castelao stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil, June 19, 2013.
Riot police take position and fire tear gas at protesters gathering near Castelao stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil, June 19, 2013.
Reuters
— Protesters blocked roads in Sao Paulo and marched toward a stadium hosting a major international soccer game in Brazil's northeast on Wednesday in a growing wave of nationwide demonstrations against poor public services, inflation and other woes in Latin America's biggest country.
 
After more than a week, the biggest series of protests to sweep Brazil in more than two decades continued in major capitals and moved into smaller cities. Focused at first in cities like Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and the capital, Brasilia, demonstrations in more than 70 smaller cities are expected across the country on Thursday.
 
Wednesday's protests in Sao Paulo, the site of the most frequent marches, followed overnight demonstrations that led to looting and vandalism. Police arrested more than 63 people after protesters torched a police facility, tried to storm City Hall and broke windows and ransacked stores.
 
“People have the right to participate in protests,” Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad said at a news conference. He was critical, however, of unrest that interfered with “the right to get to work, to get home.”
 
Haddad on Wednesday said he was considering a reduction in bus fares, following cuts by officials in a handful of other state capitals, but still had to weigh how to make up for the subsequent shortfall in revenues for Brazil's biggest city and its financial and industrial hub.
 
In response, the Free Fare Movement, a protest group that is pushing for free transportation and is one of the chief organizers of the demonstrations, lambasted what it called the “inversion of the debate” by local authorities.
 
“They say the demonstrations impede the right to come and go of the population,” the group said in a statement. “It is the people demonstrating who are in fact fighting to guarantee that right.”
 
Poor public services
 
The nationwide protests were sparked last week by transportation fare increases, which came as Brazil struggles with annual inflation of 6.5 percent, unleashing a tide of complaints that caught authorities off guard.
 
Contrasting the country's high taxes with its ramshackle schools, hospitals and other government services, demonstrators have criticized the 28 billion reais ($12.9 billion) of public money being spent on preparations for the 2014 World Cup of soccer, to be played in 12 Brazilian cities.
 
On Tuesday night President Dilma Rousseff, who has acknowledged the legitimacy of the protesters' demands, dispatched federal troops to five Brazilian cities to help maintain order around the Confederations Cup, which began earlier this month. The international soccer tournament is a warmup for the World Cup.
 
Rousseff's action, part of the contingency plan for the tournament, is similar to previous deployments of federal troops when crime, violence or other unrest disrupted annual Carnival celebrations and other big events.
 
Brazil's national soccer team was scheduled to play Mexico on Wednesday in the northeastern city of Fortaleza. Even before kickoff at mid-afternoon, some protesters among thousands marching before the game crossed police lines and had to be repelled by force, according to local authorities. A Reuters photographer covering the protest said police pointed guns armed with rubber bullets at journalists to get them to step back.
 
Protesters outside the stadium carried signs and banners asking residents to “hit the street” and demanding “health, education, not corruption.”
 
No end in sight
 
It remains unclear whether transportation fare reductions will be enough to slow the demonstrations or whether organizers, a loose collection of young activists who are connecting through social media, will continue calling for protests.
 
Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who was imprisoned and tortured by military dictators in her youth, on Tuesday said Brazilians deserved better public services.
 
Neither her words nor efforts by state and local officials have done much to stop the unrest, in part because of the diffuse nature of the protesters and the wide array of demands.
 
“It's difficult to get ahead of the movement because there isn't a clear image of who they are or what exactly they will do,” said David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia. “It's hard to have a discourse with someone you don't know.”
 
Although many Brazilians support the issues raised by the protesters, some are concerned about the vandalism and scattered violence that has accompanied some of the demonstrations.
 
In central Sao Paulo early on Wednesday, broken glass and other debris was scattered atop colonial cobblestones, and graffiti was scrawled on the front of the city hall. “The people have awoken,” read one of the messages, echoing one of many chants that protesters have been yelling as they march.
 
“People are going to pay for this out of their pockets,” said Manuel Carlos, a 42-year-old logistics manager. “I am in favor of the movement but the stuff we are seeing here is absurd.”

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Video Clock Ticking for Congress to Act on US Border Crisis

This week is lawmakers’ last chance before recess to respond to surge of undocumented children arriving at America’s southern frontier
More

US Considers Screening Youth in Honduras for Refugee Status

Officials say children could be interviewed before they make dangerous journey to US border, as tens of thousands of children from Central America have done already this year
More

Video President Asks Central American Leaders to Help Stop Migrants

Obama tells presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras it isn't lack of compassion, but obligation to obey immigration laws that is prompting US to turn back many migrants
More

S. Africa Launches Campaign Against US Cuba Sanctions

African National Congress launches the Cuban Solidarity Campaign to work against long-standing sanctions
More

Honduran President Links Border Crisis to US Policy Divide

Human, drug traffickers 'perversely' exploit confusion about US immigration policy, Juan Orlando Hernandez tells reporters on Capitol Hill
More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US
More