Brazil protests back despite proposed reforms

AP News
Posted: Jun 25, 2013 6:53 PM
Brazil protests back despite proposed reforms

SAO PAULO (AP) — Protesters returned to the streets in smaller, sporadic protests in a handful of Brazilian cities Tuesday, demanding better education, transport and health services.

The protests came one day after President Dilma Rousseff proposed a wide range of actions to reform Brazil's political system.

Protesters left a slum in Rio and peacefully marched toward a rich beach neighborhood. In Sao Paulo, some groups blocked major highways while others marched earlier in the day in impoverished neighborhoods. About 1,000 people in Niteroi marched and other demonstrations took place in five other states.

Police in Rio de Janeiro charged into the Nova Holanda slum and killed at least eight people as they hunted for the killer of a police officer who died after a protest the night before that devolved into a clash with demonstrators who looted stores and robbed bystanders.

"We think the people who are most interested in the demands being made in the street demonstrations of the past several days are those who live in these kind of poor areas," said Guilherme Boulos, one of the leaders of Tuesday's protests on Sao Paulo's outskirts.

So far, Brazilian protesters don't appear appeased by Rousseff's proposals, which shifted some of the burden for progress onto Brazil's widely loathed Congress by calling for a plebiscite on political reform lawmakers will have to approve. The divided Congress would likely struggle to take any quick action on such a plebiscite.

Protesters have filled cities to air a wide spectrum of grievances including poor public services and the high cost of hosting next year's World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics.

About 100,000 people were expected to march in the city of Belo Horizonte on Wednesday before Brazil plays Uruguay in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup. City officials declared a holiday and said they were expecting confrontations with demonstrators.

Sepp Blatter, president of international soccer organizing body FIFA, was scheduled to attend the game. FIFA officials have said security has been boosted because of the protests, but it wasn't immediately known if any changes were expected in Belo Horizonte because of Blatter's presence.

In Porto Alegre, Ronaldo Sielichow, president of that city's Association of Store Owners, asked law enforcement to beef up security after looting hit the southern city over the past few days during demonstrations.

Rousseff told governors and mayors Monday that her administration would allocate $23 billion for new spending on urban public transport, but she didn't provide details on what the new projects would be. Four leaders from the free-transit activist group that launched the demonstrations more than a week ago said she also gave them no concrete plans while meeting with them.

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She said her government would focus on five priorities: fiscal responsibility and controlling inflation; political reform; health care; public transport, and education.

In her weekly column posted Tuesday on the presidency's website, Rousseff said: "The money spent to build or renovate stadiums for the World Cup is not part of the federal budget and does not affect funds earmarked for health and education."

Rousseff added that the World Cup cost "was financed and will be paid back by the companies and state governments that use these stadiums."

Many of the actions proposed by Rousseff, including using all oil royalties to fund education and attracting foreign doctors to work in underserved areas, weren't new and had already met with stiff resistance in Congress.


Associated Press writer Tales Azzoni in Belo Horizonte contributed to this report.