Tens of thousands have demonstrated in Brazil after images circulated of police brutality in Sao Paulo. The protests, among the biggest since the end of the country's dictatorship, have widened across the country.
Police in Rio de Janeiro fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesting youths early Tuesday, after days in which tens of thousands rallied in major Brazilian cities against the cost of hosting the 2014 World Cup. Monday saw major protests in at least eight cities across the country. Most turned out to be peaceful, but vandalism and a violent police reponse marred protests in Rio and Belo Horizonte.
"Peaceful demonstrations are legitimate and part of democracy," President Dilma Rousseff said in a statement. "It is natural for young people to demonstrate."
The police response has so far reportedly led to about a dozen injuries. In Rio, the violent crackdown on a small and peaceful crowd Sunday near the Maracana stadium incited many to come out for what local news media described as the city's largest protest in a generation. A live round allegedly fired by police has injured at least one protester in Rio.
'Security and integrity'
Monday's protests came during soccer's Confederations Cup, hosted by Brazil, just one month before a papal visit, a year before the World Cup, and three years ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The unrest has raised security concerns and renewed questions over Brazil's readiness to host the events.
"The government assumed the responsibility and the honor to stage these two international events and will do so, ensuring the security and integrity of the fans and tourists," Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo warned.
A cyberattack knocked the government's official World Cup site offline, and the Twitter feed for Brazil's Anonymous group posted links to a host of other government websites where activists had replaced the usual content with a screen calling on citizens to take to the streets.
mkg/rc (AFP, dpa, AP)