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Violent protests spark U-turn on transport fares

June 19th, 2013

Protestors in Brasilia: Photo: Agencia Brasil

Rises in public transport fares in São Paulo and Rio de Janiero that sparked nationwide protests have been cancelled following talks between city and state governments.

The scope of the protests that at times have been marked by violence and looting has widened to include the cost of the the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup football tournaments, as well a lack of investment in health, education, basic sanitation and other infrastructure.

Corruption among public officials such as judges and congressmen, who regularly vote themselves hefty pay increases on top of salaries beyond the wildest dreams of poor and even well-paid middle class Brazilians has also become a target for protestors’ anger.

Social media sites have been crackling with chatter and the exchange of information about the demonstrations.

One graphic shared on Facebook showed a congressman picks up more than 25 times the monthly salary of a fireman. Another listed the names of 200 congressmen said to be in favour of a constitutional amendment aimed at limiting their immunity from prosecution.

Brazilian football great Ronaldo, a World Cup winner in 2002, became a target for satirists and cartoonists, after reportedly saying “you can’t have a World Cup with hospitals” during a recorded broadcast.

Some Brazilian fans risked the wrath of FIFA President Sepp Blatter holding up placards protesting at corruption at the Confederations Cup match between Brazil and Mexico on Wednesday in Fortaleza in the northeast of the country, where Brazil ran out 2-0 winners. Political protests at matches are against FIFA rules.

Demonstrations started last week after the price of a single journey ticket in São Paulo was increased on June 2 from R$3 ($1.38) to R$3.20 ($1.47).

Though São Paulo and Rio have now followed the lead of other cities in cancelling the rises, demonstrations have continued with main highways leading in and out of São Paulo and a bridge connecting Rio de Janeiro with Niteroi among the routes being blocked by protestors.

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Brazilian Spring? Transport, World Cup cost protests gather momentum

June 18th, 2013

Protestors occupy the rooftops of Congress in Brasilia. Photos: Agencia Brasil

A wave of protests sweeping across Brazil over increased transport fares and the cost of the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup tournaments has reached the rooftops of Congress in the capital Brasilia.

On Monday, police reportedly fired tear gas as they tried to disperse protestors in the south east city of Belo Horizonte. Demonstrations also took place in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Belem.

While police pledged to refrain from using tear gas and rubber bullets in a protest involving a reported 65,000 people in São Paulo, unless property was being threatened, social media sites have been full of images and cartoons critical of their use by police in previous demonstrations.

Some images have even depicted calls for a general strike.

Though football is close to a religion in Brazil - a country that has won the World Cup five times - many people are unhappy that billions of dollars have been spent on building or modernising new stadiums, while swathes of the population go without infrastructure, access to medical treatment or basic sanitation.

Protestors express their anger in English in Brasilia

Protestors express their anger in English.

One municipality close to Belem in northern Brazil saw a record 1,210 admissions per 100,000 people for diarrhea in 2012,  figures from an NGO that monitors basic sanitation in Brazil show. It compares with a low of 1.4 cases per 100,000 people in Taubaté, São Paulo state a year earlier.

For some people the fare increases appear to be the last straw.

One taxi driver in Salvador, northeast Brazil previously took me by surprise, saying that he wouldn’t go to matches at next year’s World Cup even if he were able to get tickets in disgust at the amount of money that should be used to help the public being diverted to fund the tournament.

Though previously said quietly by people through gritted teeth it’s an attitude that now appears to be being expressed more openly and vociferously. Protesters are just as angry about grinding inequality and rampant corruption among officials.

Judges and politicians frequently vote to award themselves enormous pay increases on top of salaries already beyond the wildest dreams of most poor and even well-paid middle class people in Brazil.

At the weekend, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and FIFA boss Sepp Blatter were both booed by the crowd at the Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasilia as they declared the dress rehearsal tournament for next year’s World Cup open.

A protestor is dragged away in Brasilia

On Monday, President Dilma, who herself was imprisoned and tortured during Brazil’s dictatorship, said peaceful protest is a legitimate part of democracy.

Demonstrations started last week after the price of a single journey ticket in São Paulo was increased on June 2 from R$3 ($1.38) to R$3.20 ($1.47).

The protests, which turned violent, started to take in the cost of the Confederations Cup currently taking place in Brazil and the World Cup tournament, which kicks off in just under a year from now.

A number of journalists were among those injured. Earlier pictures showed one young woman reporter, after being hit around the eye by a rubber bullet and another a TV cameraman being sprayed with police pepper gas.

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Carnaval 2010 in full swing throughout Brazil

February 14th, 2010

Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is known around the world. But cities throughout Brazil stage their own often very different version. Here women in Salvador are decked out in traditional African costumes. Photo: Agencia Brasil

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Carnaval-goers in the northeast city are renowned for their stamina. Officially Carnaval ends on Wednesday. Unofficially, the party could last for the rest of this month! Photo: Agencia Brasil

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The thunderous sound of drums can be heard everywhere. Here one of the smaller bands on display goes through their paces. Photo: Agencia Brasil

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Tourists and locals mingle in the parade in Olinda. Photo: Agencia Brasil

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Large doll-like figures are a feature of Carnaval in Olinda in Brazil's northeast. Photo: Agencia Brasil.

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In the capital city Brasilia, singer Paulo Hora stands before revellers, some of whom have based their costumes around a long-running political bribery scandal. Photo: Agencia Brasil

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Brazil stamps World Cup passport

September 6th, 2009

Brazil’s World Cup carnaval can start early this week, with a game against Chile in Salvador, after the country’s national team sealed a place in next year’s finals competition with a 3-1 away victory against Argentina in Rosario on Saturday night.

In a plodding match, punctuated by two excellent goals, Brazil turned in a workmanlike performance against a misfiring Argentina side, whose coach Diego Maradona wore a worried frown for most of the match.

Argentina looked the more dangerous in the first few minutes, but once Luisão was left in oceans of space to nod in a downward header on 23 minutes, Brazil hardly looked troubled.

Seven minutes later, Argentine goalkeeper Anjúdar could only parry a shot to the feet of Luis Fabiano, who made no mistake.

After the interval, the game appeared to be petering out in Brazil’s favour, until on 65 minutes, Dátatolo unleashed a left-foot exocet into the top right hand corner from nigh-on 30 yards, leaving the normally very solid Brazilian keeper Júlio César with no chance.

Argentina’s response briefly lifted the atmoshere to boiling point, but this was extinguished two minutes later when Kaká threaded the ball through the Argentine defence to Luis Fabiano, who, as he fell away to the right, chipped the ball diagonally over the rapidly advancing Anjúdar into an empty net.

The finish was reminiscent of Michael Owen’s ‘wonder goal’ for England in the 1998 World Cup second round, also against Argentina.

In a league of ten-teams from which four qualify and a fifth faces a play-off, the result leaves fourth-placed Argentina on 22 points, sweating on their qualification with Ecuador and Colombia breathing down their necks 2 points behind.

Tricky away matches follow against third-placed Paraguay (27pts) and Uruguay (18pts) in seventh spot, who could still snatch a place in South Africa next year by winning their last three games.

Brazilian media were quick to celebrate the victory against their team’s fiercist rival. “Good to win, even better to win in Argentina,” said one TV presenter. “As a player Maradona was god, as a coach he’s mortal,” cried the Folha de São Paulo newspaper.

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Film puts Brazil anti-nazi immigration policy under spotlight

August 14th, 2009

A film about a Polish refugee suspected of being a Nazi fugitive by Brazilian immigration authorities at the end of World War II aims to shed light on a recent period of Brazilian history little known to most people in the country today.

‘Tempos de Paz’ [Peacetime], which opens on Friday, starring Tony Ramos and Dan Stulbach focuses on the encounter between a customs official and former-torturer for President Getulio Vargas’ secret police.

Clauswitz [Stulbach], a former Polish actor who experienced at first hand the full horrors that the war inflicted on his country and people arrives in Brazil in search of a new life but finds himself accused of being a Nazi war criminal by customs official Segismundo [Ramos].

Based on a successful theatre production, the film looks at some of the most important moments in modern Brazilian history, including the Vargas regime and a new influx of immigrants that helped build Brazil into the country it is now.

Vargas, who ordered the detention of political prisoners in the run-up to the Second World War, but was later elected to the Brazilian presidency is said to have hedged his bets in waiting to see which side would likely come out on top before siding with the allies, before eventually sending troops to fight in Italy.

In the film, Segismundo, who fears revenge from former detainees now has the final say on who is allowed to stay in Brazil and has been given the task of preventing Nazis from entering the country as the Getúlio Vargas dictatorship tries to smooth over relations with the United States.

Shot in Rio de Janeiro over ten days at the end of last year, ‘Tempos de Paz’ is directed by Daniel Filho, co-producer of the critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated ‘City of God’, the no-holds-barred portrayal of shantytown life in Rio de Janeiro.

“What interests me particularly is the massive displacement of populations for political reasons something that isn’t specific to the Second World War,” said scriptwriter Bosco Brasil, who adapted his play for the big screen.

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