South America has been a special part of my life for four decades. I have lived many years in Brasil and Peru. I am married to an incredible lady from Argentina. I want to share South America with you.
A man runs from tear gas during a protest against the increase in bus fares in São Paulo, Brazil
Violent protests erupted on the streets of São Paulo for the first time since the World Cup last year, in a sign that a budget austerity campaign by President Dilma Rousseff could face popular opposition.
Riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets on the city’s main thoroughfare, Avenida Paulista, alleging that the protest against bus fare increases that the city government had quietly implemented during the Christmas break had turned violent.
FirstFT is our new essential daily email briefing of the best stories from across the web
“Freedom now,” chanted some of the protesters, estimated by the police to number about 2,000.
Although public transport fares are a municipal and state matter, the protests come at a delicate time for Ms Rousseff, who is trying to reduce public spending to restore investor confidence and protect Brazil’s hard-won investment grade credit rating.
She is set to go to Davos, Switzerland, this month for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum where she will market Brazil’s austerity programme to a global audience.
Her ruling Workers party and its coalition allies are under fire over a corruption scandal involving state oil company Petrobras that could undermine the government’s legitimacy at a time when it needs to raise prices in areas that hurt the poor and middle class.
Friday’s protests recall the beginnings of the mass street demonstrations that rocked Brazil in June 2013 that were also sparked by an increase in public transport fares. Then, protesters managed to force the government to revoke a R$0.20 increase in fares to R$3.20, while this year they are fighting against a R$0.50 rise to R$3.50.
Members of Movimento Passe Livre (Free Pass Movement)
The organiser of both sets of demonstrations, activist group Free Pass Movement, blamed the police for Friday night’s violence.
“The MPL did not direct aggression towards the police or other acts of vandalism,” said the movement.
A tough police response to the protests in 2013 spilled over into a general expression of discontent with shoddy public services and corruption, with more than 1m Brazilians taking to the streets.
It was unclear, however, whether the protests this time would generate as widespread a response, with many commuters in São Paulo, a crowded megapolis that lacks adequate public transport, opposed to protests.
“The protests only happened today?” said one person on Twitter, remarking on how the fare increases had taken effect days ago when most people were enjoying the Christmas summer holiday. “Is that because these spoiled brats were down at the beach until now?”
The São Paulo police on Twitter showed pictures of masked protesters, known as black blocs, engaging in vandalism. “Black Blocs participating in the protest, throwing stones at a police car, is that democracy?” the police tweeted.
Ms Rousseff, however, is in a delicate position after winning a second term in October with one of the narrowest margins in recent history.
She will be careful not to provoke wider protests. While São Paulo’s state governor, Geraldo Alckmin, is from the opposition PSDB party, the city’s mayor, Fernando Haddad, is a stalwart of her Workers party.
First of all, this has NOTHING to do with the Federal government, as already indicated above.
In an case, these are anarchists and rabble rousers, all of them - Brazil needs austerity and the government is trying to do that; after all, who is gonna pay for these free lunches? Not the "students", it seems.
For more information, go read "O Mito do Governo Grátis" - surely an enlightening book.