Two hundred thousand people marched in Brazil’s biggest cities on Monday 17 June against rising public transport costs. Further demonstrations are planned on the day we go to press (Thursday 20th).
Protests began at the beginning of June after Sao Paulo residents marched against an increase in the price of a single bus fare, from 3 real to 3.2 real. That issue was just a spark, bringing to the fore a number of long-standing grievances. Inflation in Brazil (a capitalist success story) is running at 15%; government corruption is widespread; the government is spending vast sums on the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics while social spending is being cut.
Social networking and a protest video (against the money being spent on 12 new football stadiums) has helped to spread the protests.
The marches have met rubber bullets and tear gas from the police. Continuing police repression fuelled further anger, clashes with the police as well as more organised direct action.
Local political rulers in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have announced that the bus and subway price rises will be rescinded.
But will that stop the protests?
From a statement by the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL)
This dispute that began with the youth is the tip of the iceberg of a huge collective dissatisfaction. The intransigence and police brutality is throwing petrol on the fire.
The escalation of violence by the military police, especially in the recent protests in the state capital, demonstrates that it is the policy of the state and local government not to live with disagreement, criticism and protests. It has resulted in the criminalisation of social movements and protesters. This is unacceptable in a democratic society. We demand the immediate release of all people arrested.
By accusing this broad and legitimate movement of vandalism, the unscrupulous rulers and Brazilian elite try to manipulate public opinion; but there is enormous popular support for demonstrations including a repudiation of coercion and police violence.
Until recently transportation prices were exempt from taxes, and that should have prevented any increase. It is absurd that even with these tax advantages, transport entrepreneurs just adjust prices. They do this with the consent of the mayors and governors. This collusion between business and government is shown by the public transportation companies funding the election campaigns of those who now support increases.
In cities ruled by the PSOL — Macapa and Itaocara — there was no increase in bus fares. That was the political decision of the mayors. We are at the service of workers and youth and do not enter into agreements with entrepreneurs.
We believe that it is possible with a balanced budget and political will to organise free passes to students and even zero tariffs. There is nothing unreal or absurd in these proposals — we want to ensure the citizens’ constitutional right to mobility.