Brazilian govt reverses bus fare increase

Thursday 20 June 2013 23.48
Yesterday's marches in Rio de Janeiro followed overnight demonstrations in the city that led to looting and vandalism
Yesterday's marches in Rio de Janeiro followed overnight demonstrations in the city that led to looting and vandalism

Brazil's two biggest cities have agreed to revoke an increase in public transport fares that set off nationwide protests against poor public services, inflation and corruption.

The decisions, made separately in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, followed another day of protests across Brazil.

The protests also included a march by demonstrators around a major international football game in the northeastern city of Fortaleza.

This month's transport fare increases, which came as Brazil struggles with annual inflation of 6.5%, stirred a groundswell of other complaints.

This led to the largest protests to sweep Brazil in more than two decades.

The protests have been organised by a disparate group of activists who have rallied supporters through social media.

Sao Paulo state Governor Geraldo Alckmin, announcing a reduction in fares to their level before the increase, called it "important ... so the city can have the tranquillity needed to debate issues calmly".

It remains unclear whether revoking the fare increases, which followed similar fare cuts in other state capitals, will be enough to quell the unrest.

Initially focused in cities such as Sao Paulo, Rio and Brasilia, demonstrations have spread, with protests planned in more than 70 smaller cities.

After the fare increase was scrapped, leaders of the protest movement in Sao Paulo said their cause would now shift to free public transport and that a planned protest later today would be a celebration.

President Dilma Rousseff acknowledged on Tuesday the legitimacy of the protesters' demands.

Her Workers' Party presided over a near decade-long economic boom that lifted more than 30 million people from poverty.

But a recent slowdown is prompting many among Brazil's growing middle class to demand more of the government.

She praised the mostly non-violent demonstrators and said her government would seek to improve schools, hospitals, infrastructure and other public facilities and services.

To help maintain order, Ms Rousseff dispatched federal troops to five cities hosting games during the Confederations Cup, an international football tournament that began earlier this month.

The competition is a warm-up for the 2014 World Cup, which Brazil is hosting.

Contrasting the country's high taxes with its ramshackle schools, hospitals and other shabby government services, demonstrators have criticised the 28 billion reais (€9.4bn) of public money being spent on the World Cup, which will be played in 12 Brazilian cities.

The demonstrations surrounding the game began well before kick-off.

Protesters marched toward the stadium and carried banners asking residents to "hit the street" and demanding "health, education, not corruption".

In Sao Paulo, the site of the most frequent marches until now, protests further complicated the daily commute for many of the residents of Brazil's financial and industrial hub.

Demonstrations have disrupted the already gridlocked city so much that many companies have allowed employees to leave early in recent days or allowed them to work from home.

The marches followed overnight demonstrations in the city that led to looting and vandalism.

Police arrested more than 63 people after protesters torched a police facility, tried to storm City Hall and broke windows and ransacked stores.

Although many Brazilians support the issues raised by the protesters, some are concerned about the vandalism and scattered violence that have accompanied some of the demonstrations.

Keywords: brazil, protests