Brazilian president reaches out to protesters | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 22.06.2013
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Brazilian president reaches out to protesters

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has promised to address social reform amid widespread unrest over massive spending on upcoming sporting events. The comments came in a televised speech prompted by nationwide protests.

During prime time on Friday evening, the Brazilian president broke her silence on the demonstrations, which have turned violent in recent days. The speech came hours after she had met with her Cabinet to quell the largest demonstrations seen in the South American country in nearly two decades.

An increase in public transit prices in Sao Paulo last week soon spread across a number of cities. The focus of demonstrations then shifted to sharp criticism of the government's $10 billion (7.5 billion euros) spending on the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games instead of funnelling the funds into health care and education, or curbing Brazil's high crime rate.

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Brazilian president speaks

Rousseff attempted to address the public's disgust with a broken system, pledging government action to bolster much needed social programs.

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

The president condemned acts of violence during demonstrations. However, she repeated her support for the people's right to protest, invoking her own experiences as a protester against the military dictatorship which ended in 1985.

"It's citizenship and not economic power that must be heard first," she said.

Lawmakers would draft a plan to improve public transportation, she said, adding that she supported funding education with royalties from Brazil's oil reserves. The government would also address shortages in the health care industry by bringing in doctors from abroad.

Rousseff's televised address came a day after some 1.25 million people marched in cities across the nation. The upswing in public outcries forced her to cancel a trip to Japan on Thursday.

Confederations Cup going ahead

The protests have overshadowed the Conferedations Cup, which is seen as a warm-up to the World Cup. Several of the protests have been held outside the stadiums where matches are being played and one is scheduled for the day of the final on June 30 at the Maracana in Rio.

Despite the unrest, FIFA has vowed to continue with the tournament and ruled out canceling any games.

"At no stage, I repeat, no stage, has FIFA, the [World Cup's] Local Organizing Committee, nor the federal government discussed or considered cancelling the Confederations Cup," FIFA spokesperson Pekka Odriozola said.

He told reporters that the eight national teams involved in the tournament are being kept up to date on the security situation in Brazil.

"We have not received any requests to leave from any teams," Odriozola said, adding that the rumor that the Italian squad had requested to exit was "absurd."

kms/lw (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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