Thursday 23 November 2017

Brazil braces for more protests

Police officers stand guard as people arrive before a Confederations Cup soccer match at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro June 20, 2013. Reuters
Police officers stand guard as people arrive before a Confederations Cup soccer match at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro June 20, 2013. Reuters
Demonstrators gather during a protest in front of the Brazilian National Congress in Brasilia (AP)
Police fire rubber bullets at demonstrators protesting at a price increase for public transport in Sao Paulo (AP)
A masked protester walks away from a burning barricade near the Castelao stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil (AP)

Protests are planned in more than 80 cities across Brazil, a week after the start of massive demonstrations that have sent hundreds of thousands of people into the streets denouncing poor public services and government corruption.

The biggest protest is likely shake Rio de Janeiro where protesters say they'll march on the Maracana stadium just as a Confederations cup football game is getting under way in the afternoon. Protests are also planned in the country's biggest city, Sao Paulo, and towns all over this continent-sized country.

Several city leaders had already given into initial protester demands to revoke an increase in bus and subway fares and are hoping that anti-government anger cools.

In Sao Paulo, protest organisers said they would turn their demonstration into a party celebrating the lower transit fares. But many believe the protests are no longer just about bus fares and have become a cry for systemic changes in a country that's otherwise seen a decade-long economic boom.

"It's not really about the price any more," said Camila Sena, an 18-year-old university student at a protest yesterday in Rio de Janeiro's sister city of Niteroi. "People are so disgusted with the system, so fed up that now we're demanding change."

She added that seeing money poured into soccer stadiums for the current Confederations Cup and next year's World Cup only added fuel to people's anger. "It's not that we're against the World Cup, not at all. It will bring good things for Brazil. It's just that we're against the corruption that the World Cup has become an excuse for," she said.

Mass protests are rare in the 190 million-person country, with demonstrations generally attracting small numbers of politicised participants.

Many now marching in Brazil's streets hail from the growing middle class, which government figures show has ballooned by some 40 million people over the past decade amid a commodities-driven boom.

While the complaints of protesters are wide-ranging, there have been few answers about how to turn the disgruntlement into a coherent list of demands with which to confront the government.

In announcing the reversal of the fare hike, Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad said it "will represent a big sacrifice and we will have to reduce investments in other areas." He didn't give details on where other cuts would occur. Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes also said his city's fare increase would be rescinded.

Press Association

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