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Protests roil Brazil despite fare rollback

Protesters clash with police even after two biggest cities reverse increase in bus and subway fares.

Last Modified: 20 Jun 2013 12:56
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Protesters in Brazil have continued to clash with police, even after authorities in two of the biggest cities rolled back the transit fare hikes that triggered two weeks of nationwide protests.

The bus and subway fares rollback in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday marked a major victory for the protests, which are the biggest Brazil has seen in two decades.

But the government’s move, which comes into effect next Monday, was not enough to placate all protesters.

Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators as they moved towards the 13 kilometre bridge that connects Niteroi to the city of Rio de Janeiro across the Guanabara Bay.

Protesters were trying to block access to the bridge.

Later, a group of protesters overturned a bus and smashed cars despite cries of "no violence" by many protesters, who were marching peacefully.

Protester Leandro Pergula called the demonstrations "an awakening".

"This is not just because of a fare hike. This is for our rights. The people woke up," Pergula said.

'Hospitals not stadiums'

Another protester, student Taina Rodrigues, said she wanted good hospitals "and not football stadiums".

The demonstrations swelled with fury at the government's lavish spending on the football Confederations Cup, next year's World Cup, and the 2016 Summer Olympics, which critics say comes at the expense of social programmes.

The government has earmarked $15bn for the Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup, two events aimed at showcasing Brazil's recent economic boom and rising global stature.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter urged protesters to stop linking their anger against the government to the Confederations Cup.

In an interview with Brazil's Globo TV network, Blatter said he could "understand that people are not happy, but they should not use football to make their demands heard."

"We did not impose the World Cup on Brazil," he said.

Sao Paulo State Governor Geraldo Alckmin on Wednesday said that subway, train and bus fares would revert to $1.35 from $1.44 at the current exchange rate, while Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said bus fares would go back to $1.24 from $1.33.

Several other Brazilian cities, including Porto Alegre and Recife, had already cancelled their own fare hikes.

The fare increases may appear modest, but are a major burden for thousands in a country where the minimum monthly wage is currently only $306.

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