At least one million people have taken to the streets of Brazil, protesting everything from corruption and poor public services to the costs of the 2014 World Cup. The wave of protests hit at least 80 cities.
The largest demonstration took place in Rio de Janeiro, with an estimated 300,000 people turning out to protest there on Thursday, a day after the mayor of the city met a key demand of the protesters by rescinding price hikes on public transportation.
The mass demonstration in Rio began peacefully, with protesters marching through the city center toward the office of Mayor Eduardo Paes. But clashes ensued, with police firing tear gas and protesters throwing rocks, leaving 30 people injured.
The protests reached Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, on Thursday with 20,000 people marching in front of Congress. Police formed a barrier in front of the legislature to stop people from climbing to the top of the building, as they did on Monday. Protesters also tried to break into the Foreign Ministry, sparking clashes with security forces.
Around 110,000 people gathered in Brazil’s largest city and business center, Sao Paulo, where the current wave of unrest began. One protester was killed there, when a car rammed into a crowd of demonstrators.
The city had increased prices for bus and metro services, sparking demonstrations that quickly snowballed into a nationwide phenomenon via social networks. Like Rio, Sao Paulo rescinded the price hikes on Wednesday in the face of public unrest.
Rousseff cancels Japan trip
President Dilma Rousseff on Thursday cancelled a trip to Japan planned for June 26-28, in order to deal with the protests, the largest in 20 years. Rousseff, a member of the left-leaning Workers’ Party, has sought to embrace the demonstrations.
Earlier in the week, she said that the protesters had “sent a clear message to all of society, above all to political leaders of all levels of government.” But so far, her supportive words have done little to placate those protesting.
Although the demonstrations were triggered by public transit prices, they have broadened to focus on a host of social issues, such as corruption and poor public services. Protesters have also decried the more than $10 billion (7.5 billion euros) spent on 2014 World Cup preparations, saying that the money could have been better spent elsewhere.
slk/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)