Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff promised on Friday to hold a dialogue with members of a protest movement sweeping the country, but also said she would do whatever is necessary to maintain order.
We cannot live with this violence that shames Brazil, she said in a nationally televised address. All institutions and public security forces should prevent, within the limits of the law, every form of violence and vandalism.
“We have been listening to the democratic voices demanding change, and we guarantee the right to assembly, but let me be clear I am not going to pact with violence. Right to assembly, right to protest but always in peace and in democracy”, said the president.
“The people want a better education and better healthcare. The people want more, and to give more the institutions and the governments will have to talk in the coming days” pointed out Rousseff.
The president then listed some of the measures her government will display to satisfy demands.
“We are going to invest 100% of oil resources in national education; we’re going to contract thousands of doctors from overseas to improve healthare”, and regarding public transport, the spark that triggered the massive protests, Rousseff mentioned the need of a “great understanding” between governors and mayors of the different cities, “to ensure better public services”.
The president also pledged that in a few days she will be meeting with the leaders of the peaceful demonstrations: “I’m going to receive the peaceful leaders of the movement (which led the protests) because we need their contribution”.
However since the protests and clashes with police forces not only referred to public transport fares and conditions but to the billions of dollars invested in the Confederation Cup and the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the president addressed some misunderstandings.
“As to the Cup I want to make it clear that the money invested by the federal government, an estimated 15 billion dollars, will be financed by the corporations and state governments exploiting those stadiums and facilities. I would never allow resources to be diverted from priority sectors”, emphasized Rousseff.
But “we also need to offer our brotherly peoples the same reception they have extended to us. Soccer and sport are symbols of peace and peaceful sharing”, insisted the president in direct reference to the many protests that have swept across the country since the Confederation Cup, many of them outside the stadiums where matches were being played, terrifying many fans and tourists.
There was also mention to the corruption cases involving her government and that of her political mentor and former president Lula da Silva.
“We need to make an effort so citizens have stricter mechanisms of control over their representatives. The habeas data and access to information bills must be widened and extended”, pledged Rousseff.
Speaking calmly but firmly, Rousseff said Brazil has a historic opportunity to harness the energy from the protests and make improvements.
But she warned the movement could be ruined by violence like that seen on Thursday, when some protesters smashed buildings, looted stores and set fires in a dozen cities. The clashes also left two people dead and dozens injured.
The movement came out of seemingly nowhere over the past ten days and saw more than a million people demonstrate on Thursday in the biggest protests in Brazil in 20 years. But unlike other recent protest movements around the world, Brazil's demonstrators are not targeting individual politician and Rousseff herself remains relatively popular.
Many are part of the middle class, which benefited from a recent economic boom. But they are upset about paying European-level taxes for what some describe as African-level public services.
Rousseff made a specific appeal for calm during the inauguration of the Confederation Cup but was booed down and could not speak. FIFA Joseph Blatter called for silence and respect and was also booed down.