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Biggest Protests In 20 Years Sweep Brazil

posted 17 Jun 2013, 19:44 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 17 Jun 2013, 19:45 ]

Hundreds of thousands spill into the streets of Brazil's largest cities in the biggest protests the country has seen in 20 years.

BRASILIABRAZIL (JUNE 17, 2013) (REUTERS) -  As many as 200,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Brazil's biggest cities on Monday (June 17) in a swelling wave of protest tapping into widespread anger at poor public services, police violence and government corruption.

The marches, organized mostly through snowballing social media campaigns, blocked streets and halted traffic in more than a half-dozen cities, including Sao Paulo, Rio de JaneiroBelo Horizonte and Brasilia, where demonstrators climbed onto the roof of Brazil's Congress building and then stormed it.

Monday's demonstrations were the latest in a flurry of protests in the past two weeks that have added to growing unease over Brazil's sluggish economy, high inflation and a spurt in violent crime.

"It is a cry from society against the corruption that is messing up the country. I recognize that some of the ideas from parts of the protesters are erroneous. I don't support 100 percent of it, but I think that in some way society got tired and is going to say something," said one demonstrator in Brasilia.

Around the country, protesters waved Brazilian flags, dancing and chanting slogans such as "The people have awakened" and "Pardon the inconvenience,Brazil is changing."

The protests have gathered pace as Brazil is hosting the Confederation's Cup, a dry run for next year's World Cup soccer championship.

The government hopes these events, along with the 2016 Summer Olympics, will showcase Brazil as an emerging power on the global stage.

Contrasting the billions in taxpayer money spent on new stadiums with the shoddy state of Brazil's public services, protesters are using the Confederation's Cup as a counterpoint to amplify their concerns.

The marches began this month with an isolated protest in Sao Paulo against a small increase in bus and subway fares.

Other common grievances at Monday's marches included corruption and the inadequate and overcrowded public transportation networks that Brazilians cope with daily.

"I think in the end that the people are willing to come out, I think there is a lot from everywhere. I've seen students, public workers, young people, people a little older, people of all ages. I think this truly represents the desire we have for change," a demonstrator outside the Congress building said.

The harsh police reaction to last week's protests touched a nerve in Brazil, which endured two decades of political repression under a military dictatorship that ended in 1985.

It also added to doubts about whether Brazil's police forces would be ready for next year's World Cup.

"The government is only going to wake up when Brazil stops. And Brazil is going to stop today, it's going to stop tomorrow, it's going to stop the day after tomorrow. It's going to stop everyday if necessary, when every Brazilian leaves their house with the Brazilian flag and with a mask saying, "show me your face," said Felipe Francawho demonstrated in Sao Paulo on Monday.