SAO PAULO, Brazil — Leaders in Brazil’s two biggest cities said Wednesday that they had reversed an increase in bus and subway fares that ignited the anti-government protests that have spread across the nation in the past week.
Many people said they doubted that the move would quiet the demonstrations, whose aim has expanded to encompass more than just outrage over the fare hikes. Protesters in Latin America’s biggest nation say they are angry about poor public services.
“It’s not really about the price anymore,” said Camila Sena, an 18-year-old university student at a 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 building soccer stadiums for the current Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup has fueled people’s anger.
At a news conference in Sao Paulo, Mayor Fernando Haddad said the reversal of the public transport fare increase “will represent a big sacrifice, and we will have to reduce investments in other areas,” although he did not detail those cuts.
In Rio de Janeiro, Mayor Eduardo Paes confirmed that the city’s fare increase would be rescinded.
Scattered street demonstrations continued in some parts of Brazil as protesters demand improvements in public services amid high taxes and rising prices.
About 200 people blocked the Anchieta Highway — which links Sao Paulo, the country’s biggest city, and the port of Santos — before heading to the industrial suburb of Sao Bernardo do Campo on Sao Paulo’s outskirts. Another group of protesters obstructed the highway later.
In the northeastern city of Fortaleza, 15,000 protesters clashed with police trying to prevent them from reaching Castelao Stadium before Brazil’s game with Mexico in the Confederations Cup soccer tournament.
Riot police used gas bombs and pepper spray to keep protesters from advancing past a barrier not quite two miles from the stadium. Demonstrators burned a police car and threw rocks and other objects at officers. The protest made it difficult for fans to get to the stadium for Brazil’s second match at the World Cup warm-up tournament.
Earlier, hundreds of protesters cut off the main road to the stadium, and police diverted traffic. Official vehicles of the international soccer organization, FIFA, were among those struggling to reach the stadium. Soldiers from Brazil’s elite National Force have been sent to Fortaleza, Rio, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and Brasilia to bolster security during tournament games.
The protests followed another night of mass marches around Brazil and nearly a week of unrest that has shocked the country’s leaders ahead of a papal visit next month and next year’s World Cup soccer tournament.