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Thursday 23 November 2017

Brazil protesters keep up pressure

Protestors burn a Sao Paulo state flag in front of City Hall, in Sao Paulo, Brazil (AP/Nelson Antoine)
Protestors burn a Sao Paulo state flag in front of City Hall, in Sao Paulo, Brazil (AP/Nelson Antoine)
Protestors rip away a Sao Paulo state flag outside of City Hall in Sao Paulo, Brazil (AP/Nelson Antoine)
Firefighters work amid burned remains from a protest the night before, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (AP/Agencia Brasil, Tania Rego)

Scattered street demonstrations have popped up around Brazil again as protesters continued their collective cry against poor public services despite high taxes and prices.

In one of several reported protests, about 200 people blocked the Anchieta Highway that links Sao Paulo and the port city of Santos. They left after two hours and headed to the industrial suburb of Sao Bernardo do Campo, an industrial suburb on Sao Paulo's outskirts.

In the north-eastern city of Fortaleza, protesters blocked the main access road to the stadium where Brazil will pay Mexico in the Confererations Cup.

Police diverted traffic away from the road as hundreds of demonstrators gathered near the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza. Official FIFA vehicles were among those struggling to get to the venue for the group stage match.

Previously tens of thousands of Brazilians flooded the streets of the country's biggest to express their long-standing complaint about being weighed down by high costs and a system of government infected with corruption.

Mass protests have been mushrooming across Brazil since demonstrations called last week by a group angry over the high cost of a woeful public transport system and a recent 10% rise in bus and subway fares in Sao Paulo, Rio and elsewhere. The local governments in at least four cities have now agreed to reverse the rises, and city and federal politicians have shown signs that the Sao Paulo fare could also be rolled back.

Demonstrators mainly are expressing deep anger and discontentment - not just with the ruling government, but with the entire governing system. A common chant at the rallies has been "No parties!"

The protests have brought troubling questions about security in the country, which is playing host this week to soccer's Confederations Cup and will welcome Pope Francis in July for a visit to Rio de Janeiro and rural Sao Paulo.

Brazilian demonstrations in recent years generally had tended to attract small numbers of politicized participants, but the latest mobilizations have united huge crowds around a central complaint: The government provides woeful public services even as the economy is modernizing and growing.

The Brazilian Tax Planning Institute think tank found that the country's tax burden in 2011 stood at 36 percent of gross domestic product, ranking it 12th among the 30 countries with the world's highest tax burdens. Yet public services such as schools are in sorry shape. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found in a 2009 educational survey that literacy and math skills of Brazilian 15-year-olds ranked 53rd out of 65 countries, behind nations such as Bulgaria, Mexico, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, and Romania.

Press Association

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