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LatinNews Daily Report - 14 June 2013

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Mass protests continue in São Paulo, Rio

Development: On 13 June thousands of people took to the streets of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to demonstrate against the 6.7% rise in public transport fares recently introduced by the federal government.

Significance: This is the fourth day of protests in Brazil’s two largest cities against the measure which was implemented on 10 June. That the protests have already turned violent and show no signs of abating should be a major cause of concern for the government of President Dilma Rousseff – who is expected to seek re-election next year - and the ruling Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT). The protests follow the release of a poll which showed a drop in Rousseff’s approval ratings for the first time since taking office in 2011, on the back of the economy’s poor performance and inflation concerns. The unrest comes right before the Fifa Confederations Cup is due to kick off in Brazil on 15 June - Brazil’s ‘dress rehearsal’ for the next year’s Fifa World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Key points:

  • The unrest began in São Paulo on 11 June after fares in the city rose from R$3.00 (U$1.50) to R$3.20 (US$160) overnight. Over 10,000 people demonstrated in the city’s main avenues for six hours calling for the measure to be reversed. The protest quickly spread to Rio, where there was also a large turnout. In response to police efforts to disperse them, protesters became violent torching buses, hurling petrol bombs and smashing windows. The police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

  • Despite dozens of arrests in both cities, the demonstrations (and violence) resumed the following day and yesterday. The protests are now being organised by a civil society group, ‘Movimento Passe Livre’ (‘free pass movement’). According to local press reports, yesterday’s demonstrations were the largest yet in São Paulo with some 12,000 participants, resulting in some 50 more arrests on police figures. Some 2,000 people are said to have taken to the streets in Rio, which is scheduled to host a Confederations Cup game on 16 June.

  • São Paulo mayor, Fernando Haddad (PT), has rejected the violence and expressed a willingness to dialogue with the demonstrators albeit warning the fare rise “must be maintained”.

  • So far Rousseff has not addressed the issue, but yesterday she announced the creation of joint police-military security command centres that will operate in all six of the Confederation Cup host cities. Rousseff said the centres will be in charge of public security during the tournament, adding that “this will lead to concrete improvements in public security” in those areas.