agence france-presse
BRASILIA, 19 JUNE: Brazil’s government says it will deploy a national security force to five major cities after a wave of protests which has seen almost a quarter of a million people demand better public services.
The national force will be sent to Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Fortaleza and the capital, Brasilia.
All of the cities are hosting games in Fifa’s Confederations Cup. The announcement comes after riot police and protesters clashed in fresh protests on Tuesday in Sao Paulo.
Brazil’s ministry of justice said that Recife was the only Confederations Cup host city not to request the support of the National Public Security Force (FNSP).
A source in the ministry said it would be up to local governments to decide how long the FNSP would stay.
With 250,000 people on the streets, Monday’s protests were the biggest in 20 years and came as a surprise in a country rarely inclined to protest, particularly after a decade of social progress in terms of income and employment.
“It’s a first step to show that we are not a dead people,” 24-year-old businessman Bruno Pastan told AFP, having stormed the roof of Brasilia’s National Congress with 200 fellow protesters on Monday night.
“Some people thought that Brazil would hold everything for the football, that we only lived for that.”
The demonstrations started in Sao Paulo, in protest at an increase in public transport prices.
With the aid of social networking websites, the marches spread to other cities and took on other slogans.
Chief among those was the denunciation of the colossal public costs of staging the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup, estimated at over USD 15 billion (11 billion euros), which the protesters said should have gone towards health and education.
“If your son falls ill, take him to the stadium!” yelled one demonstrator, in an ironic allusion to the precarious state of Brazil’s hospitals and the huge sums lavished on the construction of sporting arenas.
The Brazilian movement has parallels with the protests that have erupted in Turkey and Egypt.
“There’s a profound social change in the background, marked by the rise of a new social class,” says economist Andre Perfeito, from the consultancy firm Gradual Investimentos.
In the last 10 years, he points out, Brazil has seen some 40 million people enter the middle class, which now represents over half the population.
There has also been an explosion in consumer spending, fuelled by the use of credit, and a notable increase in levels of education.
But since President Dilma Rousseff came to power two years ago, economic growth has fallen sharply (from 2.7 per cent in 2011 to 0.9 per cent in 2012), and prices are rising (up 6.5 per cent in May on the last 12 months). All of which has a direct impact on people’s wallets.