Rousseff to address nation amid protests

Updated: 2013-06-22 15:00


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RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff would address the nation Friday evening, a day after more than 1 million people demonstrated nationwide for better living conditions, her office announced.

Rousseff on Friday called an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the sometimes violent mass protests throughout the country that have grown into the largest since 1992.

The protests continued Friday in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo among other cities. In Rio, about 1,000 people demonstrated, with some invading an enormous empty arts center. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

In Sao Paulo, where protests began last week after transit fares went up, organizers called for a festive demonstration to celebrate that the fare hikes had been rolled back. It was estimated that 300,000 people thronged the streets of the city.

Brazil's Free Pass Movement (MPL), a social movement which initiated the protest against the bus fare hike in Sao Paulo, announced on Friday that they would not organize more protests.

The MPL, which advocates free urban transport, said in a statement that the goal of their campaign was reached when the Sao Paulo government revoked the 0.20 reais (9 US cents) rise in the bus fare on Wednesday evening.

The movement denounced that protests grew to the point of attracting citizens who defended ideas to which the MPL is opposed.

"We repudiate the acts of violence against parties in the same manner we repudiate police brutality," the statement said.

The MPL-initiated campaign culminated in a series of protests which shook the whole country at a time when the country is hosting the Confederations Cup soccer tournament.

Nationwide protests on Thursday were initially peaceful, but turned violent in many places, with attacks on city hall buildings, even in the capital city of Brasilia.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota on Friday expressed his indignation over the attempt to charge the Foreign Ministry building in Brasilia Thursday night. Sixty windows of the ministry building were broken and its outer walls were covered with graffiti.

"It was an act of vandalism that cannot happen again," he said, "I ask protesters to keep calm and respect public property."

At least 10 people have been arrested when protestors clashed with police in a mass street demonstration Thursday, police said Friday.

Meanwhile, Rio de Janeiro state Security Secretary Jose Mariano Beltrame said troops deployed in the port city for the security of the Confederations Cup soccer games, may be called in to deal with riots.

The protests, which were initially sparked by public anger over transport fare hikes, evolved into malcontent against inefficient public services and heavy public spending on major international sport events.

Brazil, which will host next year's FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, has reportedly invested billions in infrastructure and other preparations.