Sao Paulo mayor meets with protest leaders, says bus fare hike stays

June 18, 2013 at 4:31 PM
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SAO PAULO, June 18 (UPI) -- The mayor of Sao Paulo Tuesday tried to defuse protests that started with a complaint a week ago against city bus fares and blossomed into a national movement.

In an attempt to head off another round of anti-government protests in Brazil's largest city Tuesday night, Mayor Fernando Haddad met during the morning with representatives of the protest movement, but said revoking the 10-cent increase in bus fares, which prompted the demonstrations, was not possible.

The movement has grown since June 10 to include challenges to political corruption, lavish stadium projects in anticipation of the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and substandard public services throughout Brazil, The New York Times reported.

Thousands of protesters rallied across Brazil Monday, demonstrating against issues ranging from higher bus fares to police violence, witnesses said. Organizers coordinated marches in several major cities, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia, the national capital where some protesters shimmied onto the roof of Congress, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In Sao Paulo, more than 65,000 people clogged the main thoroughfares of the city. Support for the group has grown since a widely publicized crackdown by military police Thursday injured 120 protesters and some journalists.

After clashes by police and demonstrators in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte were reported, the United Nations' office on human rights issued a statement Tuesday calling for "necessary measures to guarantee the right to peaceful assembly, and to prevent the disproportionate use of force."

"I think we're seeing something that started with the legitimate complaint about the bus fare, but now it's clear we're now seeing a more general dissatisfaction, especially amongst the young," said Laurindo Leal Filho, a sociology professor at the University of Sao Paulo.

Two weeks ago, the Sao Paulo bus fare for a standard one-way trip rose to about $1.50. Minimum-wage workers who take two buses a day could spend more than one-quarter of their monthly income for transportation, the Los Angeles Times said.

"The price of our bus system is absurd," said Josi Paixao, who marched in Sao Paulo Monday. "We're trying to make life more accessible for regular Brazilians."

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