Hundreds of thousands protest throughout Brazil

From The World Socialist Web Site:

By Dorian Griscom
19 June 2013

On Monday, June 17 Brazil saw its largest protests in at least 20 years. Hundreds of thousands marched in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia, the country’s leading cities, while smaller demonstrations occurred in other cities around the country.

Estimates of the numbers who took to the streets nationwide ranged as high as nearly 1 million. In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and commercial capital, an estimated 250,000 demonstrated, and in Rio de Janeiro another 150,000 filled Avenida Rio Branco and much of the city’s downtown. In the capital of Brasilia, some 5,000 youth occupied the lobby of the National Congress, while hundreds of others climbed onto the building’s roof. There were also protests in Fortaleza, Vitoria, Maceio, Belem, Salvador, Curitiba, Porto Alegre and Recife.

Monday’s mass protests broadened and deepened a wave of smaller protests that were initially launched in response to transit fare hikes implemented by various city governments across the country, most notably in São Paulo.

These first demonstrations were staged in reaction to seemingly small price increases for use of public transportation, averaging between 5 and 10 cents (in US dollars) per ticket.

Much as in the events surrounding the protests in Turkey’s Taksim square, the brutal repression unleashed against these initial demonstrators by Brazil’s military police helped trigger nationwide anger. As a result the greatest number took to the streets since at least the 1992 demonstrations demanding the impeachment of then-President Fernando Collor de Mello and possibly since the 1984 mass movement demanding direct elections at the end of the military dictatorship.

The protests on Monday expressed far more general grievances, decrying rampant government corruption, lack of adequate basic services, widespread poverty and the squandering of billions in state funds on the construction of lavish stadiums for the Confederations Cup and World Cup soccer tournaments instead of investing in education and healthcare. At the heart of these grievances lies the immense gulf between the wealthy ruling class and the working population in this country of 200 million, which is one of the most socially polarized in the world.

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