Brazil Demonstrators Flood Streets 06/18 13:30
SAO PAULO (AP) -- Enormous demonstrations have shaken cities across this
continent-sized country, and more were expected Tuesday in some of the largest
outpourings of frustration in decades over red tape, high prices and shoddy
services in a rising economic power.
Mostly peaceful marches in at least eight big cities on Monday drew more
than 240,000 people nationwide, Brazilian media said, though demonstrations in
the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte were marred by vandalism and
violent clashes with police. Several dozen people were reported injured.
The protests began over a hike in bus prices in the city of Sao Paulo, but
were also fed by images of that city's police beating demonstrators and firing
rubber bullets last week during a march that drew 5,000 people. In Rio, the
violent police crackdown on a small and peaceful crowd Sunday near the iconic
Maracana stadium incited many to come out this week for what local news media
described as the city's largest protest in a generation.
The vast majority of Rio's protesters were peaceful, but a splinter group
attacked the state legislature building, setting a car and other objects
ablaze. The newspaper O Globo cited Rio state security officials as saying at
least 20 officers and nine protesters were injured there.
Protests also were reported in the cities of Curitiba, Vitoria, Fortaleza,
Recife, Belem and Salvador. More actions were being planned on social media
sites for Tuesday in Sao Paulo and Brasilia.
Monday's protests came during soccer's Confederations Cup and just one month
before a papal visit, a year before the World Cup and three years ahead of the
2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The unrest is raising security concerns and
renewed questions over Brazil's readiness to host the mega-events.
A cyber-attack knocked the government's official World Cup site offline, and
the Twitter feed for Brazil's Anonymous hackers group posted links to a host of
other government websites whose content had been replaced by a screen calling
on citizens to come out to the streets.
President Dilma Rousseff acknowledged the demonstrations with a brief
statement Monday, saying: "Peaceful demonstrations are legitimate and part of
democracy. It is natural for young people to demonstrate." Rousseff's
popularity dipped for the first time in her presidency recently, largely over
sluggish economic growth, rising inflation and security worries. She faces
re-election next year.
The United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called
on the Brazilian government to take "all necessary measures to guarantee the
right to peaceful assembly and to prevent the disproportionate use of force."
In a press conference Tuesday in Geneva, spokesman Rupert Colville also called
on demonstrators "not to resort to violence in pursuit of their demands."
Brazilians have long tolerated pervasive corruption, even as about 40
million Brazilians have moved out of poverty and into the middle class over the
past decade. Many of them have begun to demand more from their government and
are angry that billions of dollars in public funds are being spent to host the
World Cup and Olympics while few improvements are made on infrastructure
Maria Claudia Cardoso, accompanied by her 16-year-old son at a march in Sao
Paulo, said she had come out to condemn a range of problems.
"We're massacred by the government's taxes, yet when we leave home in the
morning to go to work, we don't know if we'll make it home alive because of the
violence," she said. "We don't have good schools for our kids. Our hospitals
are in awful shape. Corruption is rife. These protests will make history and
wake our politicians up to the fact that we're not taking it anymore!"
Maria do Carmo Freitas, a 41-year-old public servant from Brasilia, said
Tuesday she was excited about the protests even though she hadn't taken part.
"I'm loving it. It's been a long time since we Brazilians decided to leave
our comfort zone to tell our leaders that we're not happy about the way things
are going," said Freitas. "We pay too much in taxes and we get bad services in
exchange, bad hospitals, bad public education, public transportation is
In Rio, the confrontation between police and a small group of protesters
dragged on late into the night despite sporadic rain. As the group moved on to
the state legislature building, footage broadcast by the Globo television
network showed police firing into the air. At least one demonstrator in Rio was
injured after being hit in the leg with a live round allegedly fired by a law
Local news media reported that a high school student in Maceio was shot in
the face after a motorist forced his way through the demonstrators' barricade.
Protesters were attacking the car when a shot was fired. The extent of the
16-year-old's injuries was not immediately known.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic hub, at least 65,000 protesters gathered at
a small, treeless plaza, then broke into three directions in a Carnival-like
atmosphere, with drummers beating out samba rhythms as people chanted jingles
denouncing corruption. They also railed against the action that sparked the
first protests last week: a 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares.
Thousands of protesters in the capital, Brasilia, marched on Congress, while
a few dozen scrambled up a ramp to a low-lying roof of the 1960s-era modernist
building, clasping hands and raising their arms, the light from below sending
their elongated shadows onto the structure. Some windows were broken, but
police did not use force to push back the protesters.
A survey by the Datafolha polling agency suggested a large majority of
participants at the Sao Paulo protest had no affiliation with any political
party and nearly three-quarters were taking part in the protests for the first
Many Brazilians were angry about Sao Paulo's first protests last week after
windows were broken and buildings spray-painted, and protest leaders have
repeatedly warned marchers that damaging property would only hurt their cause.
Police, too, changed tactics. In Sao Paulo, commanders said before the
protest they would try to avoid violence, but could resort to force if
protesters destroyed property. Yet there was barely any perceptible police
presence at the start of Monday's demonstration.
In Belo Horizonte, police estimated about 20,000 people took part in a
peaceful protest before a Confederations Cup match between Tahiti and Nigeria.
Earlier in the day, demonstrators erected several barricades of burning tires
on a nearby highway, disrupting traffic.