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Rousseff praises Brazil protests

June 19, 2013

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has promised to listen to protesters who have staged nationwide demonstrations against the soaring costs of World Cup preparations. The protests are the largest in more than 20 years.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff delivers a speech during a ceremony at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on June 18, 2013. Rousseff said Tuesday that the voices of the hundreds of thousands of youths protesting across Brazil over the huge cost of hosting sporting events like the World Cup must be heard. AFP PHOTO / Evaristo SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)
Dilma RousseffImage: E.Sa/AFP/GettyImages

Rousseff praised the demonstrations on Tuesday, saying that they show "the energy of our democracy, the strength of the voice of the streets and the civility of our population."

"These voices need to be heard," she said in address at the presidential palace. "My government is listening to these voices for change."

On Monday, more than 200,000 Brazilians had taken to the streets. The protests, led largely by students, started small and were originally sparked by hikes in public transit fares. They later went viral through social media and have broadened their focus to the costly preparations for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

The Brazilian government has invested some $15 billion (11 billion euros) in preparation for the World Cup and the current Confederations Cup, improving infrastructure and building new stadiums. Protesters say the money could be better spent on social programs, such as health care and education.

"My government hears the voices clamoring for change, my government is committed to social transformation," Rousseff said. "Those who took to the streets yesterday [Monday] sent a clear message to all of society, above all to political leaders at all levels of government."

The Brazilian president left for Sao Paulo - which has been a focal point of the protests - to consult with her political mentor, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The mayor of Sao Paulo, Fernando Haddad, was also said to have taken part in the discussions.

Rousseff, a member of the left-leaning Workers' Party, is a former leftist guerrilla who was imprisoned and tortured for opposing Brazil's military dictatorship. She is Brazil's first female president.

Slk/av (AFP, Reuters)

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