World News

Monday 28 July 2014

Brazil leader vows major reforms

Published 25/06/2013|01:07

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Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff (AP)
Police officers block a street during a protest outside the home of Sergio Cabral, the governor of Rio de Janeiro state, in Rio de Janeiro (AP)
A woman holds a poster that reads in Portuguese 'Death Penalty for Corrupt' during a protest at the Copacabana beach, Rio de Janiero (AP)

Under pressure after more than a week of nationwide protests, Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff has said her government will spend 23 billion US dollars (£14.8 billion) more on public transportation and announced five core areas that leaders will focus on to speed political reform and improvements to government services.

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Ms Rousseff made the announcement after meeting with leaders of a free-transit activist group that launched the first demonstrations more than a week ago and has called for new protests on Tuesday. The president also opened a meeting of governors and mayors from 26 capital cities to discuss ways to make deep improvements.

"I mainly want to repeat that my government is listening to democratic voices. We must learn to hear the voices of the street," Ms Rousseff said at the opening of the meeting with governors and mayors. "We all must, without exception, understand these signals with humility and accuracy."

While not providing details, Ms Rousseff said she would push debate about holding a plebiscite on political reform and said all levels of government would focus on five priorities: fiscal responsibility and controlling inflation; political reform; health care; public transport; and education.

Protesters have filled cities across this continent-sized country to air a wide spectrum of grievances including poor public services and billions of dollars of spending to prepare for next year's World Cup football tournament and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Mayara Longo Vivian, one of the leaders of the Free Fare Movement who met with Ms Rousseff in Brasilia, said that no concrete measures were given to the group and that their "fight would continue". The movement has been working since 2006 to eliminate public transport fares.

Ms Vivian referred to the billions of dollars Brazil is spending to host the World Cup, saying, "If they have money to build stadiums, they have money for zero tariffs" on public transportation. "The people are on the street, the left is on the street, with legitimate agendas," she said. "Only with concrete measures from the state will this situation be reversed."

Monday marked the beginning of a more hands-on approach for Ms Rousseff in the face of sharp criticism that she had been too silent during protests last week. Ms Rousseff only delivered a nationwide address on Friday, a week after the protest exploded and a day after a million people took to the streets in at times violent protests. Since then, the demonstrations have shrunk and become less widespread.

Some scattered protests flared on Monday, and two women died after being hit by a car as they tried to block a highway in the state of Goias near the nation's capital. The highway patrol in Goias said the driver of the car fled and is being sought. Protests in Sao Paulo state also blocked road access to the nation's largest port in Santos, causing a massive backlog of trucks trying to unload products.

In Brasilia, a group of about 300 students protesting against corruption blocked some streets while a protest was expected in Rio de Janeiro later in the evening.

Press Association

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