Protesters have again taken to the streets against corruption and for reforming a system in which Brazilians have lost faith. A new poll has found that 75 percent support the demonstrations.
Saturday's 250,000 protesters couldn't match Thursday's million, and came in spite of conciliatory remarks by President Dilma Rousseff, who pledged to improve public services and fight harder against corruption. Her televised address late Friday appeared to have failed to sway protesters, as activists vowed to continue the struggle, while ordinarily soccer-mad Brazilians once again protested outside Confederations Cup games.
With "no objective information about the nature of the organization of the protests," Igor Gielow wrote in a column for Brazil's biggest newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo, "Dilma resorted to an innocuous speech to cool down spirits."
Though Saturday saw less violence than previous days, police in Belo Horizonte used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who tried to pass through a barrier and hurled rocks at a car dealership. Police also turned anti-riot weapons on protesters in the city of Salvador.
The protests, the largest in two decades in Latin America's biggest nation, began over transit fare hikes, grew to include high taxes, poor services and World Cup spending, and have coalesced around rampant corruption. The former soccer star-turned-Socialist politician Romario de Souza Faria (known best in football by just his first name) also joined the debate, praising the demonstrators and dubbing the world governing body FIFA "Brazil's real president."
Rousseff offered a "great pact" to improve shoddy public services and stressed the need for "more effective ways to fight corruption." Her intervention left protesters unmoved. On Satuday, the weekly magazine Epoca published an Ibope poll of 1,008 people between 16 and 20 that found that three-quarters of Brazilians support the protests.
Police estimate that 60,000 demonstrated on Saturday in a central square in Belo Horizonte and 30,000 shut down a main business avenue in Sao Paulo. Another 30,000 gathered in the city in southern Brazil where a nightclub fire killed over 240 mostly university students in January, deaths many argued could have been avoided with better government oversight of fire laws. Tens of thousands more protested in more than 100 Brazilian cities, bringing the nationwide total on Saturday to 250,000, according to a police count published on the website of the Globo TV network, Brazil's largest.
Over several days of demonstrations, officials say two protesters have died.
mkg/jr (AFP, AP)