Brazil Protests Spread in Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Rio

Print Friendly

Photo Above: Protesters gathered outside the National Congress building in Brasilia and climbed on the roof

As many as 200,000 people have marched through the streets of Brazil’s biggest cities, as protests over rising public transport costs and the expense of staging the 2014 World Cup have spread.

The biggest demonstration was in Rio de Janeiro, where 100,000 people joined a mainly peaceful march.

In the capital, Brasilia, people breached security at the National Congress building and scaled its roof.

Protest in Belem, Para state on 17 June 2013

Thousands also marched in the northern city of Belem, in the state of Para

The protests are the largest seen in Brazil for more than 20 years.

‘Not satisfied’

In Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, about 65,000 people took to the streets.

Many of the headlines in recent years about Brazilians have been about millions lifted out of poverty… But for many Brazilians the raised expectations do not seem to have been matched by results.” Gary Duffy, Executive editor, BBC Sao Paulo

The wave of protests kicked off earlier this month when Sao Paulo residents marched against an increase in the price of a single bus fare, from 3 reals ($1.40, £0.90) to 3.20.

Protesters gathered outside the national congress in the capital Brasilia (17 June 2013)

The demonstrators held placards and shouted slogans calling for better public services

Authorities said the rise was well below inflation, which since the last price increase in January 2011 has been 15.5%, according to official figures.

The way these initial marches were policed – with officers accused of firing rubber bullets and tear gas at peaceful protesters – further incensed Sao Paulo residents and shifted the focus from rising transport costs to wider issues.

“For many years, the government has been feeding corruption, people are demonstrating against the system,” Graciela Cacador told Reuters news agency.

Others complained about vast sums of money spent on hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics instead of being invested in health and education.

“This is a communal cry saying: ‘We’re not satisfied!’,” Maria Claudia Cardoso told the Associated Press news agency.

“We don’t have good schools for our kids. Our hospitals are in awful shape. Corruption is rife. These protests will make history and wake our politicians up to the fact we’re not taking it anymore,” she said.

“We need better education, hospitals and security, not billions spent on the World Cup,” said one mother who attended the Sao Paulo march with her daughter.

“We’re a rich country with a lot of potential but the money doesn’t go to those who need it most,” 26-year-old photographer Manoela Chiabai told the Associated Press.

Demonstrators chanted slogans, including “The people have awakened”, BBC Brasil’s Julia Carneiro reports from Sao Paulo.

Police took a hands-off approach at Monday’s demonstration following an earlier meeting between protest organisers and security chiefs at which they had agreed that regular police would not carry rubber bullet guns.

‘Legitimate’

Protests were reported in as many as 11 cities on Monday.

In Rio 100,000 people took part in a mainly peaceful march, although a small group threw rocks at police, wounding five officers. They also set fire to a car and vandalised the state assembly building.

There were violent clashes overnight in Brasilia and Rio

Confrontation with demonstrators in Pampulha – June 17

Police there reportedly used tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse them.

There were also clashes with police in Belo Horizonte, which was hosting the latest game in the Confederations Cup, the warm-up tournament for the World Cup.

An 18-year-old is reportedly in a stable condition in hospital after falling from an overpass in the city.

Map of Brazil

And in Brasilia, more than 200 protesters managed to get onto the roof of the National Congress building. After negotiations with police, the crowd agreed to leave. Later, youths formed a human chain around the building, the AFP news agency said.

“Peaceful demonstrations are legitimate,” President Dilma Rousseff said in a statement. “It is natural for the young to demonstrate.”

However, Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo warned protesters that the authorities would not allow them to disrupt the Confederations Cup or next year’s World Cup.

“The government assumed the responsibility and the honour to stage these two international events, and will do so, ensuring the security and integrity of the fans and tourists,” he said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on both sides to remain calm.

“We urge the Brazilian authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with spreading social protests in the country, and also call on demonstrators not to resort to acts of violence in pursuit of their demands,” said a spokesman for the High Commissioner.

“With further protests planned, we are however concerned that the reported excessive use of police force in recent days should not be repeated.”

Analysis

Julia CarneiroBBC Brasil, Sao Paulo

The mass of people gathered at Sao Paulo’s Largo da Batata was impressive – but more impressive was that after the demonstration began, thousands more kept arriving, streaming peacefully towards the city’s main avenues in a constant flow.

Their bright banners bore diverse demands – but all reflected a fatigue with what people here get from the state. I repeatedly heard the word “tired”: protesters told me they were tired of corruption, of nepotism, of high taxes paid for poor public services.

People chanted that others should join the movement and that “the people have awakened”. They warned foreigners not to come to the World Cup – because of the billions of dollars being spent on stadiums.

Soon Sao Paulo’s main avenues were blocked and part of the demonstration headed towards the state’s Government Palace. There were clashes with police, but nothing like the crackdown seen last week.

This protest was mirrored on the streets of Rio, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and other cities. Brazilians are asking for change – in a scale the country hasn’t seen for decades.