Brazil holds crisis talks as two killed in wave of protests
BRAZIL'S president, Dilma Rousseff, held emergency talks with ministers yesterday after another night of mass nationwide protests turned violent, with two people killed.
As many as one million people were thought to have joined demonstrations on the streets of more than 100 cities across Brazil on Thursday night to protest against the standard of public services, corruption and low pay.
The biggest night of action to date turned violent as protesters were scattered around cities by police, who used stun bombs and rubber bullets. A street cleaner in her 50s, named locally as Cleonice Vieira, reportedly suffered two heart attacks after breathing in tear gas during demonstrations in the city of Belem in the north of Brazil.
She had been with a group of other street cleaners who tried to protect themselves from the gas fired by police to disperse the 15,000-strong crowd.
Earlier, Marcos Delefrate (18) died when he was apparently run down by a Land Rover driver angry at being blocked by protesters in Ribeirao Preto, Sao Paulo.
A dozen other people were injured after the car accelerated into a crowd chanting "No violence", videos from witnesses appeared to show.
In Rio de Janeiro, where 300,000 people turned out to protest peacefully outside the Candelaria church, five adults and three minors were arrested after some of the crowd turned to vandalism. About 100 traffic lights were damaged, causing disruption on the roads yesterday morning while dozens of bus stops were smashed along with windows of shops, restaurants and banks.
Earlier in the day, the city's military police had appealed for calm, handing out 30,000 pamphlets to protesters.
Jose Maria Beltrame, the secretary of security for Rio, said: "The police have to act but without abuse, with expertise. Cases of police abuse will be determined and punished."
Mayor Eduardo Paes, whose City Hall was surrounded on Thursday, said: "We live in a democratic country but we cannot accept acts of vandalism. The integrity of Rio's society must be guaranteed."
Yesterday, the movement behind the protests, which began over a 20 cent increase to bus fares, said it would not organise any more demonstrations.
But there were continued protests nationwide, including in Rio, where some of the city's largest shopping centres in Barra da Tijuca closed at 2pm over fears of more vandalism.
Barra is home to the FIFA World Cup's local organising committee's headquarters as well as the site of the 2016 Olympic Park. Other protests have been arranged for today and Monday.
Questions were also raised about the ongoing security of the Confederations Cup, the rehearsal competition for next year's World Cup. FIFA denied reports that officials were considering abandoning the Confederations Cup.
The cities hosting matches have seen some of the biggest protests, including Recife, where more than 50,000 people took to the streets. In Brasilia, demonstrators breached the ministry of foreign affairs despite a heavy security presence, while in Belo Horizonte, crowds closed a bus station. President Rousseff was facing public pressure yesterday after failing to address the nation following Thursday night's events. She was locked in discussions with senior government ministers.
Earlier, the president cancelled a trip to Salvador and next week's trip to Japan to discuss the government's response to the protests. Gilberto Carvalho, the presidential chief of staff, yesterday suggested that the protests could affect the Pope's planned visit to Rio in July. (© Daily Telegraph, London)