19 Jun 2013

President trying to defuse protests in Brazil

10:37 am on 19 June 2013

President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil is trying to defuse a massive protest movement sweeping the country.

An estimated 200,000 people marched in six cities on Monday night to demand better education, schools and transport.

"My government is listening to the voices calling for change," said Ms Rousseff in her first comments since the protests.

The BBC reports the protests began in Sao Paulo with demands for rises in bus fare to be revoked and have turned into a nationwide demonstration against bad governance.

"Brazil has woken up a stronger country," said Ms Rousseff on Tuesday.

"The size of yesterday's marches is evidence of the strength of our democracy."

The demonstrations were Brazil's largest since 1992, when people took to the streets to demand the impeachment of President Fernando Collor de Mello.

"It is good to see so many young people, and adults - the grandson, the father and the grandfather - together holding the Brazilian flag, singing our anthem and fighting for a better country," said Ms Rousseff.

The mayors of Cuiaba, Recife, Joao Pessoa and other cities have announced a reduction in bus fares since Monday's events. Sao Paulo wants to do the same.

Another rally is set to take place in Rio on Wednesday.

The protests began earlier this month, with marches in Sao Paulo against the rise in the price of bus fares, from 3 reals ($US1.40) to 3.20.

The BBC reports they have been organised largely by young people through social media. Their movement is called Passe Livre (oFree Access).

Monday night saw the biggest demonstrations since the movement began.

About 65,000 people took to the streets in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city.

The largest march was in Rio de Janeiro, where 100,000 people marched peacefully through the city centre.