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FULL UPDATE: Brazil protests continue despite president’s plea
Massive rallies continued into the night in Brazil’s Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Sao Paolo and dozens of other major cities following a hike in transport fares, media report.
Across Brazil police estimated about 60,000 demonstrators to have gathered in downtown Belo Horizonte, 30,000 shut down a main business avenue in Sao Paulo and another 30,000 rallied in the city in southern Brazil where a nightclub fire killed over 240 mostly university students.
Demonstrators took to the streets in the cities hosting Confederations Cup matches despite President Dilma Rousseff’s plea for peace as she vowed to introduce a package of reforms, including a draft plan to benefit public transport and allocate all oil royalties to education.
A crowd reportedly tried to break through a perimeter set by the police around Belo Horizonte’s Mineirao stadium, where Mexico and Japan faced off in the Confederations Cup. The trouble escalated after dark when car dealers had windows broken, some shops were looted and protesters set fire to a car and several other objects on the streets.
The protests were sparked off by a 20% transport fare rise but quickly spread over the country, with demonstrators rallying over a much larger range of social issues, such as poor quality of public services, rising inflation and the costs of hosting the ongoing Confederations Cup and next year's FIFA World Cup.
Meanwhile, FIFA has denied that the Confederations Cup could be cancelled. “Neither FIFA nor the local organizing committee have ever discussed the possibility of cancelling the tournament,” A FIFA spokesperson said. There are eight games left in the tournament, which ends with the final on Sunday 30 June.
100,000 Brazilians rally at Belo Horizonte
A 100,000 strong protest rally is taking place in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte. Columns of demonstrators attempted to break through to the football stadium hosting a FIFA Confederations Cup match between the teams of Mexico and Japan. Police blocked all approaches to the sports arena, resorting to tear gas.
According to incoming reports, there have been clashes between protesters and police, with both sides sustaining injuries.
The protest rallies have continued in Brazil for more than a week, spreading to almost all the major cities of the country.
The demonstrators are protesting against social and economic policy, in particular, the high price of public transport, pervasive corruption, and billions of dollars wastefully spent, as they believe, on major international sporting events like the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.
Rallies to continue in Sao Paulo: protest group
The group that instigated protest rallies in Brazil's largest city said the demonstrations will continue, denying claims they had been suspended.
The Sao Paulo movement known as MPL said on its Facebook page that protests which began about 10 days ago over a hike in public transport fares - and spread like wildfire nationwide - will go on, even though the increase has been repealed.
Some spokespersons for the group had said Friday the rallies were being suspended because some of the protests had turned violent.
But MPL says it will press on until public transport is free of charge.
"The only way to change life is by fighting," the Facebook posting said.
The protests have mushroomed into a national outcry over what protesters say are lousy schools, hospitals and other public services and corrupt politicians while Brazil spends billions to prepare to host the World Cup next year and the Summer Olympics in 2016.
The rallies come as Brazil is holding the Confederations Cup, which brings together national teams from around the world and is a dry run for the World Cup.
More rallies were convened for Saturday in other cities, such as Belo Horizonte and Salvador de Bahia.
Brazilian President unveils reforms in wake of protests
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has unveiled a series of reforms in an attempt to end days of nationwide anti-government protests.
In a televised address she said she would draft a new plan to benefit public transport and that all oil royalties would be used in education.
She also said that thousands of doctors would be drafted it from overseas to improve the national health service.
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff pledges protesters to maintain order
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff pledged on Friday to maintain order on the streets, condemning the acts of violence and vandalism that have marred the country's largest protest in 20 years and promising security forces would defend public property.
In a televised address, Rousseff reiterated her government's support for social change and said she had an obligation to listen to the voices on the street and conduct a dialogue with all sides.
2014 World Cup must be held in Brazil despite protests - FIFA
The 2014 World Cup must be held in Brazil, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said Friday, one day after more than one million people marched in protests across the country.
"The Confederations Cup is taking place in Brazil and the World Cup must be held in Brazil," he told local media ahead of a meeting bringing together FIFA, the Brazilian Football Confederation and the World Cup's Local Organizing Committee.
About a million people took to the streets of 100 Brazilian cities as their protests against corruption and social and economic injustice saw their first death.
Violence broke out in more than 10 cities late Thursday and early Friday, and an 18-year-old man was killed and three people injured when they were hit by a car trying to drive around a protester-erected barricade in Ribeirao Preto, 300 kilometres north of Sao Paolo.
Hundreds of people were injured as the initially peaceful protests were interrupted by clashes as some protesters threw stones and police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them in a number of cities.
The demonstrations are the largest Brazil has seen in two decades.
President Dilma Rousseff postponed a trip she had planned to Japan and called an emergency meeting Friday morning in Brasilia. Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo, who has been criticized for the security forces' response to the demonstrations, was to attend.
The largest demonstration of the night was in Rio de Janeiro, where 300,000 people turned out. Most of them demonstrated peacefully as they marched in the centre of the city towards the mayor's office.
The situation escalated, however, as the police fired tear gas grenades. Clashes broke out, and rioters set fire to cars and plastic awnings and ripped up fences.
Police on horseback and in armoured vehicles were deployed to fight back the protesters.
"The police completely lost control and are incapable of dealing with such demonstrations," said a television station employee who was hit in the head by a rubber bullet.
Clashes occurred in at least 10 other cities, including the capital, Brasilia, where 30,000 people marched through the government quarter. Police there also fired tear gas and rubber bullets.
Thousands moved towards the Foreign Ministry and built a large fire outside it.
More than 100,000 people took to the streets in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, where the protests were largely peaceful.
In Ribeirao Preto, the driver of the Land Rover that hit the four people drove away from the scene without stopping, media reports said.
One of the injured was in a serious condition, they said.
The protests began more than a week ago against a hike in public transport fares but have broadened, taking on corruption and the costs of hosting the Confederations Cup, which is currently being played; the 2014 World Cup; and 2016 Olympics.
The protesters argued that the money for the sporting events should have instead been invested in education, health care and other social programmes.
The crowds grew despite a rollback of the transport fare hike being announced Wednesday.
"Corruption is the central issue, and we are dealing here with a national movement," historian Francisco Carlos Teixeira said.
Heavy clashes occurred at an intersection in Campinas near Sao Paulo between police and protesters. In Salvador in Bahia state, where Confederations Cup matches were played Thursday, rioters set a bus on fire and damaged two mini-buses belonging to football's world governing body, FIFA.
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