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Brazil leader breaks silence on protests, promises reforms

Last Updated: Saturday, June 22, 2013 - 11:32

Zee Media Bureau

Brasilia: After days of massive protests, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff broke her silence and announced slew of reforms in an effort to calm the anti-government protests that has gripped the nation since the last few days.

During a television broadcast on Friday, Rousseff promised better public service and agreed to talk with the protest leaders, as per a news agency report.

However, Rousseff also clearly stated that while peaceful protests are part of democracy, violence in any form not be tolerated.

"I`m going to meet with the leaders of the peaceful protests, I want institutions that are more transparent, more resistant to wrongdoing," Rousseff said in reference to perceptions of deep corruption in Brazilian politics, which is emerging as a focal point of the protests. "It`s citizenship and not economic power that must be heard first."

Though offering no details, Rousseff said that her government would create a national plan for public transportation in cities — a hike in bus and subway fares in many cities was the original complaint of the protests.

She also reiterated her backing for a plan before congress to invest all oil revenue royalties in education and a promise she made earlier to bring in foreign doctors to areas that lack physicians.

The leader, a former Marxist rebel who fought against Brazil`s 1964-1985 military regime and was imprisoned for three years and tortured by the junta, pointedly referred to earlier sacrifices made to free the nation from dictatorship.

"My generation fought a lot so that the voice of the streets could be heard," Rousseff said. "Many were persecuted, tortured and many died for this. The voice of the street must be heard and respected and it can`t be confused with the noise and truculence of some troublemakers."

She`d been widely criticized for being all but invisible amid the protests and failing to engage with the people who were demanding her government`s attention.

Trying to decipher the president`s reaction to the unrest had become a national guessing game, especially after some 1 million anti-government demonstrators took to the streets nationwide Thursday night to denounce everything from poor public services to the billions of dollars spent preparing for next year`s World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

The protests continued Friday, as about 1,000 people marched in western Rio de Janeiro city, with some looting stores and invading an enormous $250 million arts center that remains empty after several years of construction.

Police tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas as they were pelted with rocks. Police said some in the crowd were armed and firing at officers.

Other protests broke out in the country`s biggest city, Sao Paulo, where traffic was paralyzed but no violence reported, and in Fortaleza in the country`s northeast.

(With Agency Inputs)

First Published: Saturday, June 22, 2013 - 09:33
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