Police and protesters fought in the streets into the early
hours on Friday as an estimated 1 million Brazilians swarmed through more than
80 Brazilian cities in the biggest demonstrations yet against a government
viewed as corrupt at all levels and unresponsive to its people.
President Dilma Rousseff called an emergency meeting of her
top Cabinet members for Friday morning, more than a week after the protests
began. Ms. Rousseff, who has a standoffish governing style, has been almost
entirely absent from the public eye, making only one statement earlier in the
week that peaceful protests are part of the democratic process.
But the protests that raged across Brazil late on Thursday
and into Friday were spiked with violence as people vented anger over a litany
of complaints, from high taxes to corruption to rising prices.
In Rio de Janeiro, where an estimated 300,000 demonstrators
poured into the seaside city’s central area, running clashes played out between
riot police and clusters of mostly young men with T-shirts wrapped around their
faces. But peaceful protesters were caught up in the fray, too, as police fired
tear gas canisters into their midst and at times indiscriminately used pepper
Thundering booms echoed off stately colonial buildings as
rubber bullets and gas were fired at fleeing crowds.
In Ribeirao Preto, around 300 kilometres north of Sao Paolo,
an 18-year-old man was killed and three people were injured late on Thursday
when they were hit by a car trying to drive around a barricade.
The driver of the Land Rover drove away from the scene
without stopping, the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper and other local media
One of the injured was in a serious condition, the reports
Incidents were also reported in Salvador and in the
political capital Brasilia around 20,000 people demonstrated in front of the
seat of the Congress. About 10,000 people demonstrated in Recife.
President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a planned trip to Japan
to deal with the unrest and public dissatisfaction, her spokesman said.
In Brasilia, the national capital, police struggled to keep
hundreds of protesters from invading the Foreign Ministry, while the crowd set
a small fire outside. Other government buildings were attacked around the
city’s central esplanade. There, too, police used tear gas and rubber bullets
trying to scatter demonstrators.
Clashes were also reported in the Amazon jungle city of
Belem, Porto Alegre in the south, the university town Campinas north of Sao
Paulo and the northeastern city of Salvador.
The crowds grew despite the decision announced on Wednesday
by the country’s major cities to abandon the hike in public transport fares
that sparked the first protests last week.
The protests are taking place as Brazil hosts the
Confederations Cup football tournament. The country is gearing up for the World
Cup next year and the summer Olympics in 2016. People are complaining about high
taxes that they link to the cost of hosting the events.
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