Brazil protests continue; thousands take to streets

By Kristen Butler, UPI.com   |   Updated June 18, 2013 at 9:30 AM

Protests took place in at least eight cities across Brazil on Monday, including Brasília, the capital, where hundreds of protesters climbed onto the roof of Brazil's Congress and danced.

The protests have been growing since earlier this month when a small demonstration took place in São Paulo after subway and bus fares were raised from 3.00 to 3.20 reais ($1.38 to $1.47).

But the transit hikes were just the final straw for many Brazilians who see the government as squeezing the country's poorest in order to build high-profile stadiums and revamp infrastructure ahead of the FIFA World Cup, which the country hosts next year. Two years after that, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's second largest city, will host the 2016 Olympic Games.

Over the course of several days protests escalated as riot police cracked down on demonstrators with tear gas and rubber bullets.

On Monday in in São Paulo, they marched to the governor’s palace; in Rio, to the state legislature; and in Brasília, to the Congress, and protests were less violent than confrontations last week.

Independent estimates say as many as 100,000 people protested in Rio Monday, and the crowd was a mix of students, families, and middle-aged professionals.

Protesters say the country's most widespread dissent in decades isn't just about fare hikes, however. Protesters say the rising cost of living and government corruption have made people desperate.

"They destroyed schools to build parking lots for stadiums; hospitals are overcrowded; people are hungry on the streets," said protester Fernando Jones.

Former President Lula da Silva, also a Workers' Party member, came out in support of the protesters on his Facebook page. He said he hoped officials would negotiate public transit prices Brazilians can afford.

At just under $340 a month, minimum wage in Brazil about one third of that in the United States. More demonstrations are reportedly planned for Tuesday.

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