Sat June 22, 2013
Brazil's President Offers Carrot And Stick To Protesters
Originally published on Sat June 22, 2013 1:16 pm
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff has pledged a nationwide overhaul of public transportation, improved funding for schools and a crackdown on corruption in response to sometimes violent anti-government protests that have roiled the country for the past week.
In a 10-minute address broadcast on Friday, Rousseff broke her silence on the protests, saying she would spend more money on public transportation and divert some of the country's oil revenues to pay for education, The Associated Press reported. She also addressed widespread anger over government corruption.
"I want institutions that are more transparent, more resistant to wrongdoing," Rousseff said. "It's citizenship and not economic power that must be heard first."
But she also denounced attacks by protesters on government buildings and acknowledged concern about security ahead of a visit by Pope Francis in late July. She threatened to put the army on the streets if the violence continued.
"I assure you, we will maintain order," Rousseff said.
In an interview with NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, Brazil's Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said the rising expectations of the country's emerging middle class were in part the cause of the protests.
"I think there is a widespread view that they reflect aspirations by citizens who have benefited from rising living standards for [further] improvements in their lives," Patriota said.
Although the demonstrations began as a protest against a hike in the public bus fare, The New York Times reports:
"In São Paulo, the nation's largest city, protesters [Friday] blocked roads leading to the airport and thousands rallied at a downtown plaza to protest a measure backed by conservative legislators, known as the gay cure, that would allow psychologists to treat homosexuality as a form of mental illness.
"The protests continued even though one of the main groups that had been behind the original demonstrations here said that it would not call for any more marches in São Paulo. The group indicated that it had won the concessions on bus fares it had demanded and that it was concerned that some members of allied groups, like left-wing political parties or social movements, had been singled out and beaten up at the demonstrations.
" 'We won the fight, so we are going to take time to think about what to do next,' said Rafael Siqueira, a member of the group Passe Livre, which had pushed for the rollback of a bus fare increase.' "