SAO PAULO – Protesters returned to the streets in low-income suburbs of Brazil’s biggest city Tuesday to demand better education, transport and health services, one day after President Dilma Rousseff proposed a wide range of actions to reform Brazil’s political system.
Police said at least 500 people blocked streets for several hours in a peaceful protest in the districts of Capao Redondo and Campo Limpo on the outskirts of Sao Paulo.
At the same time, police in Rio de Janeiro were looking for a looter who killed a police officer after a protest on Monday. Police said eight people, including the police officer, were killed in the Nova Holanda slum in a clash with demonstrators who had looted stores and robbed bystanders.
“We think the people who are most interested in the demands being made in the street demonstrations of the past several days are those who live in these kind of suburbs,” said Guilherme Boulos, one of the leaders of Tuesday’s protests.
So far, Brazilian protesters don’t appear appeased by Rousseff’s proposals, which shifted some of the burden for progress onto Brazil’s widely loathed Congress by calling for a plebiscite on political reform lawmakers will have to approve. The divided Congress would likely struggle to take any quick action on such a plebiscite.
Protesters have filled cities to air a wide spectrum of grievances including poor public services and the high cost of hosting next year’s World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics.
About 100,000 people are expected to march in the city of Belo Horizonte Wednesday before Brazil plays Uruguay in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup.
City officials have declared a holiday in Belo Horizonte, and authorities say they are expecting confrontations with demonstrators.
Sepp Blatter, president of soccer organizing body FIFA, is scheduled to attend the game. FIFA officials have said security has been boosted because of the protests, but it wasn’t immediately known if any changes were expected in Belo Horizonte because of Blatter’s presence.
In the city of Porto Alegre, Ronaldo Sielichow, president of the Association of Store Owners there, asked law enforcement to beef up security after looting has hit the southern city over the past few days during demonstrations.
Rousseff told governors and mayors Monday that her administration would allocate $23 billion for new spending on urban public transport, but she didn’t provide details on what the new projects would be. Four leaders from the free-transit activist group that launched the demonstrations more than a week ago said she also gave them no concrete plans while meeting with them Monday.
She said her government would focus on five priorities: fiscal responsibility and controlling inflation; political reform; health care; public transport, and education.
Mayara Longo Vivian, one of the leaders of the Free Fare Movement, said their “fight would continue” despite Rousseff’s promises. The movement has been working since 2006 to eliminate public transport fares.
Vivian referred to the billions of dollars Brazil is spending on the World Cup, saying, “If they have money to build stadiums, they have money for zero tariffs” on public transportation.
In her weekly column posted Tuesday on the presidency’s website, Rousseff said: “The money spent to build or renovate stadiums for the World Cup is not part of the federal budget and does not affect funds earmarked for health and education.”
Rousseff added that the World Cup cost “was financed and will be paid back by the companies and state governments that use these stadiums.”
At a Monday demonstration in Rio de Janeiro, 68-year-old sociologist Irene Loewenstein said she wasn’t impressed with Rousseff’s plans.
“It’s a necessary first step, but not a particularly meaningful nor surprising one,” she said. “Neither Dilma nor any other politician here is capable of even understanding, much less putting into practice, the kind of systematic change the people are demanding. It’s just not within their world views.”
Many of the actions proposed by Rousseff, including using all oil royalties to fund education and attracting foreign doctors to work in underserved areas, weren’t new and had already met with stiff resistance in Congress.
Opposition politicians, including a senator viewed as Rousseff’s biggest rival in next year’s presidential election, blasted her call for a plebiscite.
“It’s the specific jurisdiction of Congress to call a plebiscite,” said Sen. Aecio Neves, from the central state of Minas Gerais. “To divert attention, she’s transferring to Congress a privilege that is already ours and isn’t responding to the expectations of the population.”
Associated Press writer Bradley Brooks reported this story in Sao Paulo and Marco Sibaja contributed from Brasilia.