22 Jun 2013

Brazilian president unveils reforms to staunch protests

3:30 pm on 22 June 2013

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has announced a series of reforms in an attempt to end days of nationwide anti-government protests.

In a televised address she said she would draft a new plan to benefit public transport and that all oil royalties would be used in education.

She also said thousands of doctors would be drafted in from overseas to improve the national health service.

The president's address follows a two-hour emergency cabinet meeting in the capital, Brasilia, to discuss the country's most widespread unrest in two decades.

Ms Rousseff, who called off a trip to Japan to deal with the crisis, initially praised the demonstrators, saying she was proud so many people were fighting for a better country, the BBC reports.

More than a million people are reported to have taken part in demonstrations in about 100 cities. Initially over transport fare rises, protests are now also directed at corruption and the cost of next year's football World Cup.

Protestors say the government should instead invest in education and healthcare.

Violence erupted in many places. An 18-year-old man died when a car drove through a barricade in Sao Paulo state and a woman died of a heart attack after collapsing during demonstrations in the northern city of Belem.

A vast number of people - possibly as many as 300,000 - marched in Rio de Janeiro, and police used tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators outside the city hall on Thursday. At least 29 people were reported injured.

Rio authorities sealed off the state legislature building, the state governor's office, Guanabara Palace and the mayor's office.

In the north-eastern city of Salvador, tear gas and rubber bullets were also used to disperse protesters ahead of an international football match.

Members of Sao Paulo's Free Access Movement (Movimento Passe Livre) - which has been campaigning for better public transport - earlier pledged to take to the streets "to celebrate" the reversal of a public transport fare increase.