The leaders of the “Free Fares” movement that triggered the worst wave of street protests in two decades rocking the Brazilian government to its foundations said their meeting with President Dilma Rousseff was ‘unsatisfactory’ because there were “no concrete proposals”.
“Dialogue is an important step, but without any concrete actions which ensure the improvements the people are demanding, means there is no advance”, said Mayara Vivian, one of the identified leaders of the spontaneous group that have been protesting for over two weeks in a hundred Brazilian cities.
This Monday Rousseff proposed calling a plebiscite to implement a raft of political reforms in response to the wave of demonstrations.
But despite the announcement and in statements to Folha de Sao Paulo, the leaders of Free Fares revealed that the presidency paid for the four tickets from the industrial hub of Brazil to Brasilia to hold a meeting with Rousseff.
According to the leading Sao Paulo daily the group told the president that she must press Congress to approve the constitutional amendment which makes public transport a ‘social right’, but Rousseff only promised to check on the federal grants and costs destined for transport.
The Free Fare movement that took off with the demonstrations last 6 June and which rapidly spread to most of Brazilian cities support free public transport.
“If there’s money to build stadiums for the World Cup, then there must be ‘zero fare’” said Mayara Vivian. The group left the Planalto Palace, seat of the Executive anticipating that demonstrations will continue.
“Protests and peaceful demonstrations will continue until we obtain our objective, ‘zero fare’” said the group of leaders who before meeting with President Rousseff made public an open letter ironically expressing their ‘surprise’ at the ‘dialogue gesture’ from the government.
“We are surprised by the invitation to the meeting. We imagine that you are also surprised with what has been happening in the country in recent weeks. This dialogue gesture from your part contradicts the treatment received by social movements under current policies of this administration”, begins the letter calling for ‘zero fares’.
“Transport can only be public if it is accessible to all; that is understood as a universal right. Questioning the fares increase is questioning the very logics of the fares policy which has public transport exposed to the profits of the transport owners and not the needs of the people”, continues the letter.
They also express disagreement with the removal of taxes as demanded by the transport companies and that Brazil must invest eleven more times in individual transport with major public works and credit policies for the consumption of vehicles, than on public transport”.
“Giving up taxes means losing power over public monies, awarding blindly resources to the transport mafias, with no transparency or controls”, points out the letter from the Free Fares movement that was started in 2005, in the framework of the World Social Forum held in Brazil.
Finally the group rejects the criminalization and repression of the demonstrations “which, after all are the only reason why the Presidency has invited us.
“This meeting with the president was forced by the people in the streets, who dared to advance despite tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and all sorts of pressures and police resources.