Brazilians protest transport fare hike

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SAO PAULO: Thousands of youths clashed with riot police across central Sao Paulo on Thursday (Friday in Manila) in a fresh round of rowdy protests over higher mass transit fares.

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Police reported at least 60 arrests following running battles with demonstrators demanding a rollback of an increase in bus, metro and train ticket prices from $1.50 to $1.60.

Small groups of vandals set fire to garbage in the streets, while others smashed store windows or spraypainted buses.

Protests over higher bus fares were also held in Rio, a major tourism gateway and a host city for the Confederations Cup that kicks off Saturday.

More than 2,000 people, most of them students, marched down Rio’s central Rio Branco Avenue to demand lower bus fares, which rose from $1.29 to $1.38.

In the central Brazilian city of Goiania, the local transport company suspended the fare hike in response to protests.

The Sao Paulo demonstration began with an estimated 5,000 youths, many of them students waving red flags of the Trotskyist Unified Socialist Workers’ Party (PSTU) and chanting leftist slogans, massed outside the Baroque-style Municipal Theater near City Hall.

Some banners read “We will not tolerate being exploited” or “Our rights have a price.”

But Sao Paulo Mayor Fer-nando Haddad told reporters that the new fares would be maintained because they are “well below inflation.”

After a tense standoff outside the Municipal Theater, two dozen helmeted riot police, armed with batons, shields, tear gas and shotguns, mounted a show of force.

AFP

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