Photo: Protests in Brazil
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff pledged to meet with the leaders of demonstrators who have aired their grievances in nationwide marches in recent days, although her offer coincided with a drop in the number of protesters on the streets.
“I’m going to receive the leaders of the peaceful demonstrations, of unions and grassroots associations” because “we need all of their contributions, reflections and experiences,” Rousseff said in a 10-minute nationwide address Friday evening, in which she denounced several violent incidents during some of the protests.
The president referred to some of the protesters’ grievances, including the low quality of public services, health care and education, corruption, and public spending on the Confederations Cup soccer tournament, which began last Saturday, and next year’s World Cup.
She described the protests as “democratic” in nature though she criticized the vandalism that has occurred, attributing that behavior to a “minority” and saying those actions “cannot stain (the) true desire for change” expressed on the streets.
Regarding the increase in bus and subway fares in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo that triggered the public outrage last week, she noted that the protests succeeded in reversing the fare hike and pledged to draw up a “national urban mobility plan” in consultation with protest leaders, lawmakers, the courts, governors and mayors.
With regard to health, Rousseff pledged her government was arranging to “bring thousands of doctors from abroad to expand care” at state clinics, a plan opposed by Brazilian medical professionals.
She also said she would urge lawmakers to pass a bill that would earmark 100 percent of royalty income from deep-water oil finds in the Atlantic Ocean to education.
Rousseff promised to wage an all-out fight against corruption and said she favored a political reform that “allows citizens to better supervise all of their leaders.”
The president’s speech followed an announcement by the “Free Pass” movement in Sao Paulo, which launched the protests to denounce a hike in bus and subway fares but on Friday decided to bring an end to the demonstrations.
The group’s spokesman, Rafael Siqueira, said its main goal - reversing the fare hikes - had been achieved and added that the marches had been “infiltrated” by conservative groups with demands such as criminalizing abortion and lowering the age of criminal responsibility that “do not represent us.”
Some 1.2 million people took to the streets on Thursday, but on Friday the demonstrations had been reduced to smaller pockets of protesters in several cities, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
Some 50 demonstrators camped out Friday night outside the home of Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral and pledged to remain there until he heeds their demands.
They said they want Cabral to denounce the alleged excessive use of force by police in quelling a Thursday demonstration that brought some 300,000 people to downtown Rio de Janeiro and ended in clashes along several streets pitting small groups of violent protesters against anti-riot police.