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Demonstrators flood Brazilian streets

19 June 2013, 12:13

Sao Paulo - Enormous demonstrations have shaken cities across this continent-sized country, and more were expected on Tuesday in some of the largest outpourings of frustration in decades over red tape, high prices and shoddy services in a rising economic power.

Mostly peaceful marches in at least eight big cities on Monday drew more than 240 000 people nationwide, Brazilian media said, though demonstrations in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte were marred by vandalism and violent clashes with police. Several dozen people were reported injured.

The protests began over a hike in bus prices in the city of Sao Paulo, but were also fed by images of that city's police beating demonstrators and firing rubber bullets last week during a march that drew 5 000 people. In Rio, the violent police crackdown on a small and peaceful crowd on Sunday near the iconic Maracana stadium incited many to come out this week for what local news media described as the city's largest protest in a generation.

The vast majority of Rio's protesters were peaceful, but a splinter group attacked the state legislature building, setting a car and other objects ablaze. The newspaper O Globo cited Rio state security officials as saying at least 20 officers and nine protesters were injured there.

Protests also were reported in the cities of Curitiba, Vitoria, Fortaleza, Recife, Belem and Salvador. More actions were being planned on social media sites for Tuesday in Sao Paulo and Brasilia.

Monday's protests came during soccer's Confederations Cup and just one month before a papal visit, a year before the World Cup and three years ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The unrest is raising security concerns and renewed questions over Brazil's readiness to host the mega-events.

A cyber-attack knocked the government's official World Cup site offline, and the Twitter feed for Brazil's Anonymous hackers group posted links to a host of other government websites whose content had been replaced by a screen calling on citizens to come out to the streets.

President Dilma Rousseff acknowledged the demonstrations with a brief statement Monday, saying: "Peaceful demonstrations are legitimate and part of democracy. It is natural for young people to demonstrate." Rousseff's popularity dipped for the first time in her presidency recently, largely over sluggish economic growth, rising inflation and security worries. She faces re-election next year.

- AP


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