Brazil Protests Rage On, Despite Government Call For Change

Jun 22, 2013
Originally published on June 22, 2013 4:18 pm
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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

In Brazil, people are turning out in the millions, protesting a government viewed as corrupt and unresponsive to its citizens. Last night, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff made a failed attempt to appease the demonstrators with a broadcast in which she promised to enact the changes protesters have been calling for.

But today, the protests resumed; and NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro joins us now from the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, where a demonstration is under way. Lulu, tell us what people are demonstrating about today.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Well, it depends where you are, and who you talk to. They're demonstrating over a range of issues. But the focus of today's protest - at least, here in Sao Paulo - is, in particular, they want legislation that will limit the power of public prosecutors to investigate crimes, especially corruption, stopped. That legislation is right now making its way through congress, and they say that it will absolutely undermine the ability of prosecutors to independently go after people who are accused of corruption and other crimes. That's today's protest.

But, you know, I've spoken to a number of protesters here, and they say they're here for any number of different reasons. And you also have to remember, what's happening here in Sao Paulo isn't necessarily what's happening in Rio de Janeiro; isn't happening in the town of Belo Horizonte right now, where around 20- to 30,000 people are outside one of the soccer stadiums that's going to take part in the World Cup. They are furious at the expenditure on the World Cup stadium. So this is a countrywide movement, but it is not a cohesive one.

LYDEN: Tell us what the president, Dilma Rousseff, promised yesterday.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She had three proposals. And I have to tell you, most of what people are telling me is that they weren't new. They said nothing that they hadn't heard before, and they weren't concrete. But essentially, she said that 100 percent of oil revenues should go to fund education. That's a proposal that she's put forward before and hasn't been able to go through the congress. She wants to bring in foreign doctors. That's also something she's been trying to get through before, and that hasn't happened. And she also wants to have a national plan for transportation.

The people here today - and you can hear them behind me - say these were empty promises, they weren't concrete; and we're going to take to the streets in ever greater numbers until we get the change that we need.

LYDEN: And are people saying they're going to keep on turning out?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: These people certainly do. I mean, you have to also remember, as is the case in any protests anywhere, for the tens of thousands you have here, there are millions who have stayed at home. So this isn't necessarily representative of what's happening in Brazil.

Dilma Rousseff is still, according to opinion polls, a popular president. But the people here on the street now say she has to enact changes, the government has to enact changes in order for them to go home.

LYDEN: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, speaking with us from the streets of Sao Paulo. Thank you so much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.