Brazilian president salutes protesters as cities cut bus fares

Demonstrators gather in the Praca da Se as part of protests against poor public services, police violence and government corruption, in Sao Paulo June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Alex Almeida
Demonstrators gather in the Praca da Se as part of protests against poor public services, police violence and government corruption, in Sao Paulo June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Alex Almeida

President Dilma Rousseff last night sought to defuse a massive protest movement sweeping Brazil, acknowledging the need for better public services and more responsive governance as demonstrations continued in some cities around the country.

Speaking the morning after more than 200,000 Brazilians marched in more than a half-dozen cities, Rousseff said her government remains committed to social change and is listening attentively to the many grievances expressed at the demonstrations.

“Brazil woke up stronger today,” Rousseff said in a televised speech in Brasilia. “The size of yesterday’s demonstrations shows the energy of our democracy, the strength of the voice of the streets and the civility of our population.”

Monday’s demonstrations were the latest in a flurry of protests in the past two weeks that have fed on widespread frustration with poor public services, police violence and government corruption.

The protests, organized mostly by university students through snowballing social media campaigns, marked the first time that Brazilians have taken to the streets on such a large scale since economic volatility and a corruption scandal led to the toppling of a president in the early 1990s.

The demonstrations started as small protests in a few cities against an increase in bus and subway fares but quickly ballooned into a national movement after police fired rubber bullets at protesters in Sao Paulo last week in clashes that injured more than 100 people.

Eager to ease tensions and prevent future protests, officials in at least five cities, including important state capitals such as Porto Alegre and Recife, announced plans on Tuesday to lower bus fares.

But demonstrations continued in a few cities, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where thousands gathered in front of the city’s landmark cathedral and marched on its main avenue in what protesters hoped would be a final push persuading local officials to cancel the bus fare increase.

Tuesday night’s demonstrations were marred by a small group of rioters who smashed the windows of Sao Paulo’s city hall then set fire to a police security post and a TV broadcaster’s transmission van.

Protests then continued mostly peacefully, fading before midnight, but then rioters began pelting the windows of nearby businesses with stones and burning trash in the street, TV channel O Globo reported. It said at least 20 people were arrested for looting.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement it would send federal troops to the cities hosting the two-week FIFA Confederations’ Cup soccer tournament, which kicked off in Brazil on Saturday, to reinforce security.

Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad, a prominent figure in Rousseff’s left-leaning Workers’ Party, said in a meeting with leaders of the protest movement on Tuesday that he is considering a cut in bus fares but needs to find ways to compensate for the loss in revenue.

Even if Haddad does cede, it remains unclear if that would be enough to halt the protests, given that protesters have embraced so many other causes.

Rousseff turns to Lula

Rousseff traveled to Sao Paulo on Tuesday to meet with Haddad and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, her predecessor and political mentor. A former metalworker and union boss who led massive protests in the late 1970s, Lula remains an important power broker in Brazilian politics.

The unrest comes at a delicate time for Rousseff, whose administration is struggling to rein in high inflation and get the economy back on track after two years of sluggish growth. Polls show Rousseff remains widely popular, but her approval ratings have begun to slip in recent weeks for the first time since taking office in early 2011.

A leftist guerrilla in her youth who was jailed for conspiring against Brazil’s military dictatorship, Rousseff said the sight of so many young Brazilians marching for their rights moved her.

She also said her government sympathizes with the many grievances expressed at the demonstrations, from calls for more spending on education and healthcare to better and more affordable public transportation.

“My government hears the voices clamoring for change, my government is committed to social transformation,” Rousseff said. “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.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

Libya seeks ceasefire as south Tripoli a militia…

By Patrick Markey and Aziz El YaakoubiTRIPOLI (Reuters) - Black plumes of smoke marked shell blasts and bulldozed earthen barricades mapped out the frontlines around…

Breaking: News

Russia mad about sanctions, says U.S. contributing to…

Russia reacted angrily on Saturday to additional sanctions imposed by the European Union over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, saying they would hamper cooperation…

National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.