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Brazilian Demonstrators Block 40 Highways in 18 States, Demanding Better Work Conditions, Tougher Measures Against Inflation

Thousands on streets in Brazil protests, Above: Clashes with police in Rio De Janeiro,  July 11, 2013


Brazil protest draws smaller crowds than June rallies

Tens of thousands of workers across Brazil walked out of their jobs on Thursday as part of an action called by unions, but the protests drew fewer numbers that those seen at rallies last month, some of which drew more than a million people.

Thousands on streets in Brazil protests, July 12, 2013


Violence erupts at Rio demonstrations after unions try to spark national strike over employment laws, health and education

Violence broke out in central Rio de Janeiro at rush hour following a march by trade unionists estimated at up to 20,000 people. The protest was part of a union-organised national day of action in which demonstrations were held and roads blocked in all 27 Brazilian states.

Police used teargas and stun bombs on demonstrators in central Rio. Protests were intended to be peaceful but one flashpoint erupted after the discovery of a cardboard box full of homemade molotov cocktails made of beer bottles as the march reached the central Floriano Square.

As a demonstrator smashed the molotov cocktails underfoot police began firing teargas – and panic and violence rapidly ensued. A group of masked protesters threw rocks and fireworks at police while others wrapped scarves around their faces as gas filled the air. In the middle of running battles a soundtrack continued playing the national anthem while a speaker urged calm.

Piles of rubbish and a street stall were set on fire. As riot police regrouped on the steps of the Municipal Theatre a small boy passed out from teargas and was helped by volunteer medics who formed a circle around him. A smaller group of demonstrators then headed to the state government headquarters in Laranjeiras where teargas was also used by police.

Brazilian media blamed anarchist groups for starting trouble – a minority of demonstrators wore anarchist insignia and carried gas masks. But there was also suspicion that the discovery of the molotov cocktails near press and TV crews meant they could have been planted. "There are excesses on both sides," said João Medeiros, one of a group of lawyers from the Brazilian Bar Association volunteering to help arrested demonstrators. "With the teargas bombs, the way police arrive and push people back, we are all victims." Ten people were arrested and one policeman injured, Brazilian media said.

Trade unions, caught off guard by the protest that sent hundreds of thousands on to Brazilian streets in June, were protesting for a 40-hour working week and an end of subcontracted employment, as well as better health and education. Although the general strike unions hoped for on Thursday did not materialise more than 100,000 people demonstrated in 156 cities across Brazil, Globo's G1 news site reported.

More than 80 sections of highway were blocked across Brazil. In Campo Grande, deep in Brazil's interior, 35,000 demonstrated. In Belo Horizonte 7,000 took the streets.

Thousands demonstrated in front of the National Congress in Brasília. There were protests in Recife, Fortaleza and Maceió in the north-east of Brazil, Belém in the Amazon and Florianópolis in the south. The majority of the protests were peaceful.

In Rio, home to Brazil's oil industry, a bid round to auction of a huge offshore subsalt oil prospect in October was targeted by protesting oil workers before violence broke out. Others protested against forced evictions of favelas for World Cup and Olympic works.

Health workers campaigned over low wages. "I haven't had a pay rise in 14 years. I earn 1,900 reals (£553) net a month," said Roberto Salim, a doctor in a public hospital, earlier on in the afternoon.

As the violence calmed down and police regained control of central Rio streets, Wesley Arlley, 19, told the Guardian that a group of police had beaten him up as he passed by the demonstration.

"They asked me to kneel down and a pile of them started to hit me in the face," he said. Police standing near by and listening did not challenge his account, which was confirmed by Jonas Coutinho, a teacher who said he witnessed the police attack.



Brazil protest draws smaller crowds than June rallies

France 24, July 12, 2013, AFP

By News Wires (text)  

Striking workers blocked highways and staged mainly peaceful marches across Brazil Thursday in a day of industrial action called by unions to demand better work conditions and tougher measures to contain rising inflation.

The "National Day of Struggle" was called by the country's top five labor federations during last month's nationwide street protests for better public services and an end to endemic corruption.

Thursday's protests drew only a fraction of the numbers seen during the huge rallies last month, which on one day alone drew more than a million people out onto the streets across the vast South American powerhouse.

The unions are demanding better wages, shorter working hours, job security, improved public transport, steps to bring down inflation and more investment in public health and education.

Demonstrators blocked around 40 highways in 18 of the country's 26 states, as well as access to several ports, including Santos, Latin America's biggest.

In Rio de Janeiro, demonstrators tried to break into a government building but were dispersed by elite military police using stun grenades and teargas.

Although the protests were largely peaceful during the day, after dark in Rio de Janeiro, black-clad, masked protesters threw Molotov cocktails and flares at police, who pushed them back with tear gas.

The masked group sparked the clashes in a side street and then took refuge in a peaceful march in which union leaders called for calm and sang the national anthem.

Because of the violence, the march was dispersed before it reached its final destination, and at least 12 people, including two minors, were arrested.

In the huge Sao Paulo metropolitan area, home to 20 million people, less violent clashes erupted when some 1,500 protesters burned tires to block a key highway. Police used tear gas and sound cannons to disperse them. Altogether some 4,000 people rallied in Sao Paulo. But buses, trains and the subway operated as on a normal day.

Earlier in the day, marchers hoisting flags and banners blocked traffic on several thoroughfares, with an estimated 5,000 people thronging the central Avenida Paulista.

"We want things to improve in the country. We are marching because health and education are in crisis in Brazil. There must be a change," said Rosely Paschetti, a 49-year-old Sao Paulo municipal employee.

"More taxes for the rich, fewer taxes for the poor," read a huge banner.

Across the country, strikes and demonstrations affected major companies -- including General Motors, where a 24-hour strike was in effect, and Embraer, Brazil's top planemaker -- as well as schools, ports and public transport.

In some hospitals around the country, only emergency services were operating.

Wednesday, Santos port activity was also disrupted for several hours when stevedores went on strike, complaining that Embraport, the largest Brazilian private multi-modal port terminal, is not hiring through the state-run labor management agency OGMO, which places union members in jobs.

The workers fear that bypassing OGMO will make it possible for private companies to recruit non-unionized workers who will accept lower wages.

Top unions meanwhile appeared divided on whether to support President Dilma Rousseff, who last month vowed to hear "the voices of the street" and pledged to boost investments in public transport, health and education.

The country's biggest labor federation, the Unified Workers' Central, commonly known by the acronym CUT and founded in the 1980's by ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), backs Rousseff's proposal for a popular plebiscite to usher in broad political reform.

But the Forca Sindical union chided the government over rising inflation, which reached an annualized 6.7 percent in June, above the 6.5 percent upper limit of the government target.

"Workers' salaries are being eroded by rising inflation," said its president, Paulo Pereira da Silva, in a statement.


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