BRASILIA: President Dilma Rousseff on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) proposed a referendum on political reform, scrambling to defuse unprecedented social unrest in Brazil that sparked two weeks of nationwide street protests.
She also offered to earmark $25 billion for public transport in response to protesters’ exasperation with substandard public services and inadequate mass transit systems in the world’s seventh largest economy.
The proposals from Rousseff come after demonstrations that have rattled her leftist government, bringing 1.2 million people into the streets on Thursday alone to demand a better quality of life.
On Monday, street demonstrations persisted with about 10,000 taking to the streets of Porto Alegre in the south and another 2,000 protesting in Rio de Janeiro. Demonstrators in seven smaller cities like Teresina led to scuffles with authorities.
Following crisis talks with protest leaders, and then state governors and city mayors, Rousseff earlier suggested a referendum on the establishment of a constituent assembly tasked with crafting political reform.
“My government is hearing the democratic voices of the streets which are demanding change,” she said.
The protests in Brazil initially focused on a hike in transport fares before mushrooming to encompass a variety of gripes including criticism of the huge cost of staging the 2014 World Cup and demands for an end to corruption.
The wave of demonstrations coincides with the Confederations Cup tournament being held in six Brazilian host cities as a dry run for next year’s World Cup. Brazil has spent $15 billion to stage the two events.
Rousseff called for 50 billion reais ($25 billion) to be allocated in new investments “to improve public transport in our country,” with the construction of metro systems the priority.