Protests continue in Brazil despite Rousseff plea

Attempts by president to address protesters’ demands angrily dismissed

Protesters in Sao Paulo yesterday. Photograph: Reuters

Protesters in Sao Paulo yesterday. Photograph: Reuters


Another round of demonstrations unfolded in cities throughout Brazil yesterday, after many in the country’s sweeping protest movement angrily dismissed an effort by president Dilma Rousseff to address their broad demands.

The protests largely lacked the intensity of those in previous days, particularly Thursday, when more than 1 million Brazilians took to the streets to rail against the government on a range of issues.

Protests were planned in more than 20 cities yesterday, including Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In the far-flung city of Rio Branco in the Amazon, an estimated 15,000 people demonstrated without any reports of violence.

Demonstrations took place in two large cities hosting soccer games in the Confederations Cup, a major tournament under way here.

In Salvador, the capital of Bahia state, the authorities said about 2,500 people protested as the Brazilian national team played Italy. Reports said organizers agreed to keep the march away from the stadium, but a small group of protesters approached the stadium and there was a confrontation with the police.

One of the biggest protests was in Belo Horizonte, where Mexico played Japan. The police used tear gas to disperse a crowd estimated by the authorities at 70,000. The police also were seeking suspects responsible for acts of violence and vandalism that have marred some of the demonstrations. And the television channel Globo showed video of recent protests in which they highlighted the faces of young men committing acts of vandalism, such as smashing automated teller machines in a bank and knocking over a light pole.

Ms Rousseff initially remained silent as the protest movement grew, although she publicly embraced the protesters’ cause on Tuesday. Tens of thousands of people thronged the streets of Sao Paulo and other cities Monday, and by Thursday more than 1 million demonstrators had turned out in dozens of cities.

In a speech on Friday night, Ms Rousseff, a former guerrilla who fought the country’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, praised the demonstrators for bringing a new energy to Brazilian politics and said repeatedly that she would listen to “the voice of the streets.”

“If we can take advantage of the impulse of this new political energy,” she said, “we can do many things better and faster that Brazil has not been able to do because of political or economic limitations.”

But the proposals she offered in response to those voices were short on details, and included some programmes for which she had been unable to garner support in the past.

Ms Rousseff said she would create a national transportation plan to promote mass transit, dedicate oil revenues to education and bring in foreign doctors to bolster the health care system.

Even as her recorded message was broadcast on television, demonstrators marched, and many said they were unaware that the president was speaking to them.

“I don’t believe in her promises,” Sergio Mazzini (65) said late Friday night during a protest in the Sao Paulo city centre. “There have been too many promises for me to keep believing. We don’t know where all this is leading, but they are trying to fool us. They don’t live our reality, so it’s easy to talk about hospitals and schools when it’s us who are suffering for lack of investment in priorities.”

Felipe Possani (20) an intern at a bank who was wearing a white mask in the style popularized by the hacker group Anonymous, had nothing but scorn. “She’s a joke,” he said. “She’s just faking.”

The protests were initially set off by demands for a rollback of transit fare increases, which officials in several cities agreed to last week. But citizens have also demanded action on an array of issues, calling for improvements in health care, public transit and education, lower taxes, gay rights and an end to corruption.

New York Times