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Brazil officials reverse subway and bus fare hikes as thousands protest

People are protesting about poor public services and the money poured into soccer stadiums for the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup.

A masked protestor walks near a burning barricade as riot police stand guard near the Castelao stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil.
A masked protestor walks near a burning barricade as riot police stand guard near the Castelao stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Image: (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

LEADERS IN BRAZIL’S two biggest cities have reversed an increase in bus and subway fares that ignited anti-government protests that have spread across the nation in the past week.

Many people doubted the move would quiet the demonstrations, which have moved well beyond outrage over the fare hikes into communal cries against poor public services in Latin America’s biggest nation.

“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 soccer stadiums for the current Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup only added fuel to the people’s anger.

Brazilians march demanding free public transit and protest against the money poured into stadiums for hosting the current Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup, at the Bus Station, in Brasilia, Brazil. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

“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.

At a press conference in Sao Paulo to announce the reversal of the public transport fare hike, Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad said it “will represent a big sacrifice and we will have to reduce investments in other areas.” He didn’t give details on where other cuts would occur.

Demonstrations

Scattered street demonstrations continued in some parts of Brazil, including Niteroi, as protesters demand improvements of the public services they receive in exchange for high taxes and rising prices.

Small groups of protesters clashed with police in Niteroi late Wednesday, while demonstrators staged a large march in the capital of Brasilia that included a new demand that the government provide free transit services.

Earlier in the day, about 200 people blocked the Anchieta Highway that 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 later obstructed the highway again.

A protester shouts during an anti-government protest in Rio de Janeiro’s sister city, Niteroi, Brazil. (AP Photo/Nicolas Tanner)

In the northeastern city of Fortaleza, 15,000 protesters clashed with police trying to prevent them from reaching the 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 some three kilometers from the stadium. A police car was burned by demonstrators, who also threw rocks and other objects at officers. The protest disrupted fans’ efforts to get in the stadium for Brazil’s second match at the World Cup warm-up tournament.

“We are against a government that spends billions in stadiums while people are suffering across the country,” said Natalia Querino, a 22-year-old student participating in the protest. “We want better education, more security and a better health system.”

In the city of Belo Horizonte, some 2,000 protesters took to the streets in a peaceful demonstration, while protesters were reported gathering in Niteroi, across Guanabara Bay from Rio de Janeiro.

The actions 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.

- AP

Read: Brazil to deploy elite police following mass demonstrations>

More: 100,000 protest in Brazil over cost of hosting sporting events>

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