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Brazilian political system from surprise to shock as there seems no end to protests

Friday, June 21st 2013 - 06:16 UTC
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President Rousseff has cancelled a visit to Japan planned for next week President Rousseff has cancelled a visit to Japan planned for next week

Brazil's biggest protests in two decades intensified on Thursday despite government concessions meant to quell the demonstrations, as over 300,000 people took to the streets of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and tens of thousands more flooded an estimated one hundred cities.

Undeterred by the reversal of transport fare hikes that sparked the protests, and promises of better public services, marchers demonstrated around two international soccer matches and in cities as diverse as the Amazon capital of Manaus and the prosperous southern city of Florianopolis.

“Twenty cents was just the start,” read signs held by many converging along the Avenida Paulista, the broad avenue in central Sao Paulo, referring to the bus fare reductions.

In the capital, Brasilia, tens of thousands of protesters by early evening marched around the landmark modernist buildings that house Congress, the Supreme Court, presidential offices such as Planalto and Itamaraty.

The swelling tide of spontaneous protests through the social networks prompted President Dilma Rousseff to cancel a trip next week to Japan, her office said.

The targets of the protests, now in their second week, have broadened to include high taxes, inflation, corruption and poor public services ranging from hospitals and schools to roads and police forces.

There also seems to be saturation with politics and an overall corrupt political system (including popular former President Lula da Silva and his closest aides), which political parties have been unable to understand much less to try and take advantage or lead.

With an international soccer tournament as a backdrop, demonstrators are also denouncing the more than 14 billion dollars of public money already spent in stadiums for the 2014 World Cup and many more expected for the 2016 Olympics, two events meant to showcase a modern, developed Brazil.

After the concession on transport fares on Wednesday, activist groups differed over what their next priority should be. But the competing demands of demonstrators appeared to add to the intensity of Thursday's protests.

Inside the Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro, soccer fans sang protest songs and showed support for the throngs of demonstrators gathering in the city. In Salvador, a north eastern city hosting another game of the soccer tournament that serves as a World Cup test run, protesters clashed with police, who fired teargas to disperse crowds.

The unrest comes six months before an election year and at a time when Brazil, after nearly a decade-long economic boom in which the country's profile soared on the global stage, enters a period of uncertainty. Economic growth of less than 1% last year, annual inflation of 6.5% and a loss of appetite for Brazilian assets among international investors have clouded what had been a feel-good era for Brazil.

Brazil's currency, the real, dropped to a four-year low on Thursday, trading as weak as 2.275 per US dollar. The country's benchmark stock market index, the Bovespa, also hit a four-year low.

The protests have shaken the once solid ground under Rousseff and her ruling Workers' Party a bloc that itself grew out of convulsive demonstrations by Brazil's labour movement 30 years ago. Until inflation and other economic woes began eroding her poll numbers in recent weeks, Rousseff enjoyed some of the highest approval ratings of any elected leader worldwide.

The demonstrations have been largely non-violent and comprised mostly middle-class well-educated voters who do not form the bulk of Rousseff's electoral base.

Categories: Politics, Brazil.

Top Comments

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  • Faz

    This will spread to R Juntina next. There is plenty of disatisfaction amongst the educated with the present quasi dictatorship. Copycat demonstrations will follow... You can fool most of the people with Falklands distractions for so long, but not for ever...

    Jun 21st, 2013 - 08:47 am 0
  • karenykarl

    Neoliberalism bites Brazil in the ass.

    Jun 21st, 2013 - 11:39 am 0
  • Britworker

    Yay, bring on the banana republic spring!

    Jun 21st, 2013 - 01:10 pm 0
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