Photo: Change Brazil
Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s two largest cities, on Wednesday announced a reduction in bus fares after a week of nationwide protests.
After seven days of protests in the country’s largest city, Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad announced his decision to cancel the bus fare hike from 3 reais to 3.20 reais ($1.36 to $1.45) that had been put in place at the beginning of the month.
Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, meanwhile, also announced a 20-centavo reduction in bus fares, bringing the price of a ride on city buses back down to 2.75 reais ($1.25), where it was before the increase.
The Rio regional government also announced in a communique that it had revoked the recent fare increases on the metro, urban trains and ferries that cruise in Guanabara Bay.
Sao Paulo state Gov. Geraldo Alckmin confirmed in a press conference with Haddad that metro and urban train fares would be reduced by 20 centavos back to their previous levels.
Sao Paulo bus service is a municipal concession, but the metro and the urban train service are state government concessions.
Alckmin said that to be able to reduce the fares, the regional and municipal governments will increase the resources they allocate to subsidize public transport, a move that implies cutbacks in investments and expenditures in other areas.
“It’s a big sacrifice. We’re going to have to cut investments because the (concession) companies have no way to finance that difference,” the governor said, adding that “we will be favoring transportation, which is a priority.”
Paes echoed Alckmin’s statement about having to cut Rio’s spending by 200 million reais ($90.9 million) in other areas to be able to reduce the transport fares.
The mayors of at least 10 Brazilian cities, including important state capitals like Recife and Port Alegre, had already announced on Tuesday reductions in their transport fares or the cancellation of decrees to hike them.
The announcements come in direct response to the largely peaceful demonstrations that have been taking place nationwide for the past week.
Some violent incidents, however, apparently caused by relatively small groups of rowdies have taken place around the country.
For instance, the sixth in a series of protests against the fare hike in Sao Paulo ended in violence early Wednesday.
Riot police, who were criticized for their heavy-handed repression of demonstrations last week, stayed on the sidelines for hours as some 50,000 people took to the streets of Sao Paulo late Tuesday.
But as the protest wore on past midnight and isolated incidents of looting popped up, the cops turned aggressive. Authorities attributed the looting to vagrants who decided to take advantage of the chaos to grab merchandise from shops.
In Brazil’s largest city, masked hooligans on Tuesday tried to invade City Hall and set fire to a television network transmission truck.
After starting last week in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the protests over the transit hikes spread to dozens of cities and some 250,000 people nationwide took part in demonstrations on Monday.
Besides the issue of transit fares, many Brazilians are unhappy about the amount of public money spent on hosting sports extravaganzas such as the soccer Confederations Cup - now in progress - and the 2014 World Cup.
At dawn Wednesday, hundreds of protesters blocked two main highways in greater Sao Paulo with piles of burning tires.