by Reuters and AFP News
Bowing to mass protests, authorities of Brazil’s two biggest cities — São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro — on Wednesday decided to roll back transport fare hikes that had triggered widespread unrest.
São Paulo state Governor Geraldo Alckmin told reporters that metro, train and bus fares would revert to R$3.00 (US$1.35) from R$3.20 (US$1.44) next Monday, according to the current exchange rate. The subway and commuter train, under the jurisdiction of the state government, will also be reduced to the same price, falling from the current R$3.20 reais. Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes said bus fares would go back to R$2.95 (US$1.24) from R$2.75 (US$1.33).
“We have to cut investment, because companies (transport) have no means to afford such a difference,” said the governor of São Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin. Alckmin made the announcement of the reduced rate alongside the mayor of São Paulo, Fernando Haddad, shortly after the federal government state that is unable to further reduce taxes for the transportation sector. Rio Mayor Paes emphasized that this will have an impact on the annual municipal budget of about 200 million reais.
The decisions marked a major victory for the tens of thousands of citizens who have taken to the streets of both cities to vent their anger at the fare increases. Several other Brazilian cities, including Porto Alegre and Recife, had already canceled the fare hikes.
São Paulo and Rio have been the main stages of the demonstrations that began about two weeks ago and now include, in addition to fare reduction, demands for better public services, fighting corruption and against spending for the 2014 World Cup.
The apex of the demonstrations so far took place on Monday, when more than 200,000 people took to the streets of various capital cities. Most of the protests were peaceful, but there were acts of violence committed by small groups.
On Tuesday, the mayor of São Paulo met with members of the Movimento Passe Livre (MPL), which led the call for protests through social networks, and promised to give a response on demands by Friday.
The current wave of unrest began nearly two weeks ago in São Paulo and rapidly spread to other cities just as the country on Saturday kicked off the Confederations Cup, a dry run for next year’s World Cup.
The nationwide anger also focused on the $15 billion the government has earmarked for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, which many Brazilians feel would have been better spent on health and education.
After a peaceful demonstration began in the afternoon, a group of protesters tried late on Tuesday, to break into the headquarters of the municipal government in downtown São Paulo and set fire to a transmission car of the Record TV (television station) near the building. The Municipal Theater, an historic landmark, was the target of graffiti, as well as several monuments in the city’s downtown.
Twenty-nine shops and private areas were depleted in the region, and more than 60 people were arrested. On Wednesday, the demonstrations in the state capital spread to more peripheral areas and streets to the city.
President Dilma Rousseff said on Tuesday that the demonstrations that took to the streets of Brazil demonstrate the power of democracy and that “your government is hearing your voices” and engaged in changing society.
In early 2013, the federal government persuaded some states and municipalities to hold the readjustment to the middle of the year to reduce the effect of high inflation on transportation. The fare increases may appear modest but they were seen by many as a major burden in a country where the minimum monthly wage is currently only R$678 (US$306).
Source: Yahoo Brasil, Yahoo Singapore
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