Protesters gather in Brazil despite concessions

June 20, 2013

Protesters gathered for a new wave of massive demonstrations in Brazil on Thursday, extending the protests that have sent hundreds of thousands of people into the streets since last week to denounce poor public services and government corruption.

The biggest of the more than 80 demonstrations was expected in Rio de Janeiro, where protesters planned to march on the Maracana stadium, where a Confederations Cup soccer match was being played. Protests were also planned in the country’s biggest city, Sao Paulo, and in towns across the country.

Several city leaders have already accepted protester demands to revoke an increase in bus and subway fares and hope that anti-government anger cools.

In Sao Paulo, protest organizers said they would turn their demonstration into a party celebrating the lower transit fares. But many think the protests are no longer just about bus fares and have become a cry for systemic ­changes in a country that has otherwise seen a decade-long economic boom.

The U.S. Embassy in Brasilia wasn’t taking any chances: It warned Americans to stay away from the flurry of protests nationwide.

“It’s not really about the price anymore,” said Camila Sena, an 18-year-old university student at a Wednesday protest in Rio de Janeiro’s sister city of Niteroi. “People are so disgusted with the system, so fed up, that now we’re demanding change.”

Sena added that seeing money poured into soccer stadiums for the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup only added fuel to people’s anger.

“It’s not that we’re against the World Cup, not at all. It will bring good things for Brazil. It’s just that we’re against the corruption that the World Cup has become an excuse for,” she said.

Mass protests are rare in this country of 190 million people, with demonstrations generally attracting small numbers of politicized participants.

Many now marching in Brazil’s streets hail from the growing middle class, which government figures show has ballooned by about 40 million people over the past decade amid a commodities-driven boom.

— Associated Press

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