21 Jun 2013

Police and demonstrators clash as Brazil protests rage

An estimated 1 million Brazilians take to the streets to demonstrate against a government they see as corrupt – leading to violent clashes between police and protesters in the early hours of Friday.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called an emergency meeting of her top cabinet members on Friday morning to address the protests – more than a week after they started.

President Rousseff has been relatively absent from the public eye since the unrest began, and made one statement earlier this week saying that peaceful protests were a postive thing and a part of the democratic process.

But the protests have continued. On Wednesday, the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro reversed transport fare hikes that had been the spark.

But this failed to quell anger at the government, with one protester saying that the transport fares had merely been “the awakening”.

People are angry for a range of reasons, including high taxes, the cost of hosting major football events the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, and what is perceived to be a corrupt or unresponsive, government.

At least one protester has been killed in the clashes, in Sao Paulo state, when a car rammed into a crowd of demonstrators.

Rio de Janeiro, where an estimated 300,000 protesters have taken to the streets, has seen running battles between police and young men. Police have been reported to have used tear gas and pepper spray on the crowd – and there have been claims peaceful demonstrators have been caught up in the melee.

Brazil protests: police have used tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to try and dispel protesters (picture: Reuters)

At least 40 people have been injured in clashes in Rio.

In Brasilia, the national capital, police struggled to keep hundreds of protesters from invading the foreign ministry. Other government buildings were attacked around the city’s central esplanade.

Standing before the battered government building he presides over, Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said he “was very angry” that protesters attacked the structure “that represents the search for understanding through dialogue.” He called for protesters “to convey their demands peacefully”.

“I believe that the great majority of the protesters are not taking part in this violence and are instead looking to improve Brazil’s democracy via legitimate forms of protest,” Patriota said.

Police have used tear gas and rubber bullets trying to scatter demonstrators.

Clashes were also reported in the Amazon jungle city of Belem, Porto Alegre in the south, the university town Campinas north of Sao Paulo and the north eastern city of Salvador.

Protests have continued to rage in Brazil, and the Brazilian president has called an emergency meeting of her top cabinet members (picture: Reuters)