News / Americas

Fresh Protests in Brazil Despite Government Concessions

Demonstrators throw at police officers outside Mineirao stadium during Confederations Cup semifinal match between Brazil and Uruguay, Belo Horizonte, June 26, 2013.
Demonstrators throw at police officers outside Mineirao stadium during Confederations Cup semifinal match between Brazil and Uruguay, Belo Horizonte, June 26, 2013.
Reuters
Tens of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets on Wednesday in new demonstrations calling for a crackdown on corruption and better public services, just a day after Congress ceded to a handful of the key demands galvanizing protests across the country.
 
Police deployed in force and shut down traffic in the central esplanade of the modernistic capital of Brasilia ahead of Wednesday's marches.
 
In Belo Horizonte, some 50,000 people gathered to demand improved education and healthcare as Brazil's third-largest city hosted a Confederations Cup semi-final soccer game between Brazil and Uruguay. Police fired tear gas at stone-throwing marchers to stop them from reaching the stadium.
 
Almost two weeks after a wave of discontent suddenly erupted into Brazil's biggest protests in 20 years, the country's shaken political leadership is scrambling to respond to popular pressure for change.
 
On Tuesday night, Congress rejected a constitutional amendment that would have limited the power of federal prosecutors to investigate crimes, a measure protesters saw as a self-serving attempt by politicians to avoid corruption probes.
 
“Our representatives are listening to the people now. We are creating a new political consciousness,” said Amanda Caetano, spokeswoman for a group called “Enough is Enough” that hopes to mobilize 10,000 people in Brasilia to demand an end to the privileges enjoyed by politicians.
 
In another response to the protests, the lower house of Congress voted overnight in favor of a bill allocating royalties from future oil production to education and health programs. And a Senate committee approved a measure that would cut taxes on public transport, making it easier for cities and states to lower bus and subway fares.
 
The Senate is also expected to vote later on Wednesday on a bill that introduces stiffer sentences for corruption.
 
It was a relatively small protest against an increase in transport fares, and an ensuing police crackdown earlier this month, that ended up igniting the unrest that has shaken Latin America's largest country and economy.
 
Several Brazilian cities have since agreed to roll back the fare increases, but the leaderless protest movement has widened its focus to a litany of grievances, from the billions of dollars spent on soccer stadiums for the 2014 World Cup to a “gay cure” bill in Congress that would allow psychologists to treat homosexuality as an illness.
 
But one common theme remains: a deep distrust of a political class that is widely viewed as corrupt, overpaid and more worried about serving itself than society at large.
 
Most of the protests have unfolded peacefully, though some have been marred by vandalism and looting. Last Thursday, for instance, a demonstration by an estimated 40,000 people in Brasilia turned violent when vandals threw Molotov cocktails at the iconic building that houses Brazil's Foreign Ministry.
 
Calls for political reform

The demonstrations against Brazil's political establishment have jolted politicians of all stripes and clouded the outlook for left-leaning President Dilma Rousseff, who is expected to seek re-election next year.
 
Rousseff sought to defuse the protests by proposing on Monday that Brazil hold a plebiscite to convene a constituent assembly that would adopt political reforms to make the political system more accountable and transparent.
 
The proposal lasted 24 hours. Rousseff withdrew the plan for an assembly late Tuesday after it was shot down by politicians and lawyers who questioned the legality of a president bypassing Congress to amend the constitution.
 
Her Workers' Party government and its coalition allies are now discussing putting political reforms to the country in a referendum later this year after consulting Congress.
 
However, many, including the chief justice of Brazil's Supreme Court, doubt that a meaningful overhaul of Brazil's political system to increase transparency and accountability will prosper without the input of the general public.
 
Political analysts are waiting to see how the protests will affect Rousseff's approval ratings in new opinion polls. Her popularity had already begun to slip prior to the protests, hurt by concerns about high inflation and a sluggish economy.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Pope Beatifies Murdered Salvadoran Archbishop

Hundreds of thousands of worshippers converge on Salvadoran capital to witness papal declaration for late Oscar Romero - now one step from Roman Catholic sainthood
More

Scores Killed in Western Mexico Gunfight

Officials say almost every person killed in Michoacan state shootout was a suspected gang member
More

Latest US-Cuban Talks Ends in Washington

Both sides cite progress on restoring diplomatic ties, but no final agreement reached
More

Tutu Lends Support to Age Campaign

Help Age International has launched Action 2015 campaign
More

Colombia Kills 18 FARC Rebels

The bombing raid took place in the Cauca region of western Colombia
More

Lawmakers Question Normalization Effort With Cuba

On eve of next round of US-Cuba talks, Senator Bob Menendez calls engagement 'one-sided'
More