São Paulo Leads Brazil Protests (+Video)

By Sara Campos, Epoch Times Staff
June 18, 2013 4:14 pm Last Updated: June 18, 2013 6:30 pm

SÃO PAULO—Protests that started over an increase in bus ticket prices in Sao Paulo last week are now sweeping across Brazil.

Protests continued in the city Tuesday, after an estimated 300,000 people took to the streets Monday in the largest protests yet.

São Paulo, with a population of more than 11 million, has a vast public transportation system, but much of it is in a poor state. In the suburbs, the buses are old; in the wealthier areas, the buses are overcrowded and often lack air conditioning; and in some districts, entire bus lines are not running.

Protesters believe the tax increase of 20 cents, now pushed he price to 3.20 Brazilian real (US$1.36), is unfair and benefits the owners of the privately held companies instead of improving the transportation system. They say the fare hikes represent broader corruption in Brazil.

But for many, it’s far more that the fare hike. Andre Amaro, 27, who works as a financial analyst, was among the protesters in São Paulo on Monday. “I think it is not only the fare that has mobilized the number of people to the streets,” he said. “The people are disgusted with inflation and we can see that 90 percent of the bills aim to change … [trivial matters, such] as changing names of streets and parks.”

A dissatisfaction fueled by corruption in politics, low-quality health care, and education, are driving the continued protests across Brazil.

During Monday’s protests, banners displayed slogans such as, “The giant woke up,” “No violence,” and “World Cup, I open my hand. I want money for health and education.”

While the protests have been primarily driven by students, people of all different ages could be seen taking part in the protests—many of them had the Brazilian flag painted on their faces or draped around their shoulders.

Protests last week erupted in clashes between protesters and police over vandalism, but the large-scale protest on Monday was overall peaceful. But pockets of protesters could be seen using graffiti on buses and statues along the protest route.

An estimated 20 protesters also tried to break into the Palacio dos Bandeirantes, where the governor of the state of São Paulo resides. Military police on the scene used tear gas to disperse protesters.

José, a bus driver waiting in traffic held up by the protests, said that Monday’s demonstration was far more peaceful than last week’s. “Today I saw no plundering, and I take my hat off to the people.”

The number of protesters have generally been underreported by Brazilian media.

According to many Brazilian media accounts, an estimated 65,000 protesters took part Monday. However, an estimation by an Epoch Times reporter present on site, based on the length, duration, and width of the main avenue of the protesters, puts the number at around 300,000.