A few-cent rise in public transportation prices led to protests Monday across Brazil involving more than 100,000 people angered over heavy-handed policing, poor public services and high costs for the World Cup.
Marches and demonstrations occurred in the major cities of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Belem, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and elsewhere. The protests began peacefully but led in some cases to clashes with police and arson attacks on cars, buses and buildings.
Small protests against the rise in bus fare began last week. Police reportedly responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and beatings.
Various causes motivated the protesters, including complaints of general government indifference and chronic unemployment. “We are here because we hate the government. They do nothing for us,” Oscar José Santos, a 19-year-old who was with a group of hooded youths from the Rocinha shanty town in Rio de Janeiro, told The Guardian.
Nadia al Husin, also from Rio de Janeiro, was holding a banner calling on the government to do more for education. “I’m an architect but I have been unemployed for six months. There must be something wrong with this country,” he said.
Contrary to the speech of dissent-embattled leaders in the Middle East, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has condoned the protests. “The president believes peaceful protests are legitimate and proper for a democracy and that it is natural for young people to demonstrate,” one of her aides told The Guardian.
Brazil will elect a new president in 2014, the same year when the country is due to host the World Cup soccer tournament.
Coinciding with the start of the Confederations Cup – a World Cup test event – the rallies brought together a wide coalition of people frustrated with the escalating costs and persistently poor quality of public services, lavish investment on international sporting events, low standards of healthcare and wider unease about inequality and corruption.
In Rio images and video posted online showed vast crowds.
While the vast majority of demonstrations were peaceful, several police were injured in clashes at the city’s legislative assembly, at least one car was overturned and burned and windows were smashed in the offices of banks and notary offices.