Protesters rally for common goal

Brazilian protesters, angry about a range of political and economic issues, took to the streets for the sixth night in less than two weeks, with some trying to storm city hall in Sao Paulo, South America’s largest city.

About 50,000 people massed throughout Sao Paulo and thousands marched on city hall, according to Datafolha, a Brazilian research institute. A smaller group backed police in riot gear against a wall and tried to break into the building before it was stymied by other demonstrators forming a human chain to stop it. Protesters then marched down all eight lanes of Avenida Paulista, the city’s main boulevard.

”It’s everything from ending corruption to investing in schools,” said Lucas Santi, a 20-year-old law student at Universidade de Sao Paulo. Around him, protesters waving green and yellow Brazilian flags chanted ”it’s not about 20 cents”, referring to a scheduled increase in bus fares that originally helped spark the unrest.

President Dilma Rousseff, whose government’s approval rating dropped this month for the first time since she took office, had earlier pledged to listen to demonstrators who staged the largest street protests in more than two decades, with more than 200,000 turning out in cities around the country earlier this week.

”The voices of the street want more citizenship, health, transportation, opportunities,” Ms Rousseff, 65, said in Brasilia on Tuesday. ”My government hears those voices.”

Inflation has undermined the purchasing power of consumers, many of whom are also facing growing debts. The motivation of the protesters has expanded from fury over the bus fares to encompass everything from public spending on the World Cup next year to the development of Brazil’s oil reserves.

Since the start of protests, several cities have taken steps to reduce bus fares. Sao Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad, of Ms Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, said he was open to reducing the cost of bus transport.

”There’s no way for the government to placate protesters in the short term, except by lowering bus fares, which cities can postpone or do gradually,” said Carlos Thadeu de Freitas, chief economist at the Rio de Janeiro-based National Commerce Confederation. ”But nothing else. It takes time.”

Ms Rousseff, who was jeered at a packed Brasilia football stadium on Saturday, was due to meet on Wednesday with her predecessor, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, to discuss the situation, the Folha de Sao Paulo daily reported.

The government’s approval rating fell eight percentage points in June from March, according to a Datafolha survey published on June 9. Ms Rousseff’s administration, which is used to dealing with organised protests, was surprised and confounded by the spontaneity and diversity of the demonstrations, said Gilberto Carvalho, Ms Rousseff’s secretary-general.

”It would be pretentious to say we understand what’s going on,” Mr Carvalho said during a congressional hearing. ”If we are not sensitive, we’ll be caught on the wrong side of history.”


The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.