Brazil president unveils series of reforms

Dilma Rousseff promises better public services and calls for dialogue in an attempt to end days of nationwide protests.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has unveiled a series of reforms in an attempt to end days of nationwide protests against bad public transport and healthcare, corruption, and the billions of dollars of spending on World Cup preparation.

In a televised address on Friday, she said she had an obligation to listen to the voices on the streets but dialogue needed to be established after nearly two weeks of massive protests.

The Brazilian president said that her government would create a national plan for public transportation in cities – a hike in bus and subway fares in many cities was the original complaint of the protests.

I'm going to meet with the leaders of the peaceful protests, I want institutions that are more transparent, more resistant to wrongdoing

by Dilma Rousseff, Brazilian president

She also reiterated her backing for a plan before Congress to invest all oil revenue royalties in education and a promise she already made to bring in foreign doctors to areas that lack physicians.

Rousseff pledged to maintain order on the streets, condemning the acts of violence and vandalism that have marred the country’s largest protest in 20 years.

“I’m going to meet with the leaders of the peaceful protests, I want institutions that are more transparent, more resistant to wrongdoing,” Rousseff said.

“It’s citizenship and not economic power that must be heard first,” she said.

“We need to oxygenate our political system … and make it more transparent.”

Al Jazeera’s Adam Raney, reporting from Rio de Janeiro, said: “President Dilma Roussef’s speech was short but it was packed full of specifics.”

“Will be curious to see if the protesters across the country feel that she addressed their concerns.”

Rousseff has been facing mounting pressure over the quality of public services and the high cost of staging the World Cup.

Smaller protests erupted anew late on Friday in several cities, including Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Fortaleza. Demonstrators were calling for more mobilizations in 10 cities on Saturday.

In Rio’s western district of Barra da Tijuca, television footage showed young hooligans ransacking a car dealership and looting an appliance store.

Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo reports on political parties being shunned by protesters.

An estimated 1.25 million people took part in about 80 rallies across the country of 194 million people in an intensification of the movement which started two weeks ago to protest at public transport increases.

Police fired tear gas in Rio de Janeiro, scene of the biggest protest where 300,000 people demonstrated near City Hall, to disperse stone-throwing protesters.

At least two people had died in incidents related to the protests and 40 people were injured in the Rio clashes. 

Al Jazeera’s Raney earlier said that the government was banking on the World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, but many people did not care about either of the major sporting events and many did not want the World Cup.

Violence in Brasilia

In the capital Brasilia, security forces including military police blocked protesters trying to break into the foreign ministry building and throwing burning objects. 

In Sao Paulo, an estimated 110,000 people flooded the main avenida Paulista to celebrate the fare rollback and keep the pressure on Rousseff’s leftist government to increase social spending.

The protests have escalated into a wider call for an end to government corruption in the world’s seventh largest economy, a call prompted by resentment over the $15bn cost of hosting the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.

Those opposing the hosting of the World Cup are planning a march to Rio’s Maracana stadium on June 30, the day of the Confederations Cup final.

Protesters say they want higher funding for education and health and a cut in salaries of public officials. They are also protesting against what they viewed as rampant corruption within the political class.

About 15,000 people, most of them in their 20s, gathered just before dusk on Thursday the Alfonso Pena thoroughfare in Belo Horizonte to highlight economic issues against corruption, but a prompt police response of rubber bullets sent them scuttling for cover.

Recife and Salvador rallies

Thousands more marched in Salvador, the capital of Bahia state, and Recife.

Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Sao Paulo, said police in Recife said that marches there attracted more than 100,000 people, while a small protest in the north-eastern city of Salvador resulted in clashes between police and protesters.

Many marching against corruption and the cost of the 2014 World Cup are also angry at the media, including the influential Globo network, accused of belittling their movement.

In Sao Paulo, Globo TV crews have been jeered while covering protest rallies and on Tuesday demonstrators set the satellite van of another station ablaze.

Social media networks have been key to the organisation of the mass protests, with demonstrators using the slogan “It’s more than just 20 cents” – a reference to the bus fare rises – to rally people to their cause. The movement has no political hue and no clear leadership.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies