Brazil protests unabated despite fare hike rollback
Zee Media Bureau
Rio: Even as two major cities in Brazil decided to revoke increased fares, tens of thousands of protesters in Brazilian city of Fortaleza, clashed with riot police continuing the wave of unrest that has gripped the country since last two weeks.
Riot police fired bullets and tear gas at protesters win Fortaleza where a Confederation Cup match was scheduled.
Demonstrators hurled stones at officers and also disrupted fans' efforts to get in the stadium for Brazil's second match at the World Cup warm-up tournament.
The protests were triggered in Sao Paulo two weeks ago and spread to a dozen of cities as Confederations Cup kicked off in Brazil.
The demonstrators are angry over the hike in bus fares as the government has earmarked $15 billion for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup -- events aimed at showcasing Brazil's recent economic boom and rising global stature.
But the protesters -- including many young people who feel left behind by the vaunted economic growth -- have accused the government of neglecting health and education while pouring funds into sports stadiums.
In victory for protesters, the authorities in Sao Paulo and Rio announced rollback in fare hike.
Leaders in other cities like Cuiaba, Recife, Joao Pessoa have already decided to revoke the hike.
Beginning as protests against bus fare hikes, the demonstrations have quickly ballooned to include broad middle-class outrage over the failure of the government to provide basic services and ensure public safety, even as Brazil's economy modernizes and tax rates remain some of the highest in the world.
Protest organizers, who have widely employed social media, called for mass demonstrations Thursday in Sao Paulo and Rio, the country's two biggest cities. The Rio action promised the most volatility, with protesters planning to march to Maracana stadium where Spain and Tahiti are to play in a Confederations Cup match. Police said they would not allow protesters to interrupt the game.
Soldiers from Brazil's elite National Force have been sent to Fortaleza, Rio, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and Brasilia to bolster security during tournament games.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter urged protesters to stop linking their anger against the government to the Confederations Cup. The cost of building stadiums for the FIFA tournaments has been a regular complaint at marches.