Mass Protests in Brazil vow further action

June 20, 2013 | By More

June 21, AP – Protests that began as an outcry against a 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares in Brazil’s largest cities haven’t ended with Wednesday’s announcement that the increases would be rescinded. Protest organizers have called for mass demonstrations in dozens of cities Thursday, as people express frustration with corruption and what they say are high taxes and poor public services. Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup, but protesters say that the billions now spent on soccer stadiums would be better used for education, health and public safety.

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President Dilma Rousseff has praised protesters for strengthening democracy in Brazil, where mass protests are rare. But police have responded to them with tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. Here’s a gallery of images from the past week of protests.

The protests against a rise in bus fares have grown into overall criticism against the power of government. Brazilians are fed up with their politicians – also because of their role in bringing the World Cup to Brazil.

Brazil is hosting the Confederations Cup through June 30 – an event that is supposed to give a taste of the upcoming World Cup 2014 in the soccer-crazed nation. The world federation FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter appears to assume that the sport bridges all conflict, telling a local newspaper that soccer was “stronger than the dissatisfaction of people.”

But the ball has been rolling in the Confederations Cup for several days now and Brazil is still seeing the largest demonstrations in the last 20 years. Now, the national team has joined the ranks of the people, expressing its solidarity with the protestors.

“Let us march together, Brazil,” tweeted defender Dante. “I love my people and will always support you.”

Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians have taken to the streets for over a week, particularly in the streets of the country’s most important cities, Brasília, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. What started out as resentment about a 20 centavo (7 euro cents) price hike in public transport has turned into much more.

Major discontent

“Every protestor has his own reasons,” said Marcelo Feller. The attorney from São Paulo has a close affinity to his fellow Brazilians. Feller is one of 1,800 other attorneys across the country offering free defense to peaceful demonstrators who have been arrested.

“The masses that are now mobilizing are protesting against the high cost of living, corruption and government mismanagement – especially in the run-up to the Copa,” he said.

The sociologist Cândido Grzybowski confirms this assessment. “It’s especially young people – not the very poor, not the extremely rich, but everyone in between,” he said. People who work, study or do both. Grzybowski is the director of the renowned Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analyses (Ibase) in the center of Rio de Janeiro. The demonstrations are taking place directly in front of his office building. From his window he saw a sign reading “Should I now send my children to school in the Maracanã?” – a reference to the famous Rio stadium that for half a century was one of the temples of global soccer.

For Grzybowski, that sentiment is emblematic of the situation. In the eyes of many Brazilians, much too much money has been poured into renovating the stadiums and much too little into education.

Government mismanagement

The Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro is the largest stadium in the country and is hosting the final games of both the Confederation Cup and the World Cup in 2014. Initially, the reconstruction was supposed to cost 230 million euros ($308 million). It ended up with a price tag of 360 million euros, after already having undergone two facelifts in the past 15 years for a total of 220 million euros.

Associated press writer for human rights observers – contributed to this report.


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Category: International

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