December 13, 2013
Teachers’ protests turn violent in Brazil
BRASILIA — At least 264 people were arrested for vandalism and at least one protester was shot following massive protests on Tuesday night in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Protesters accused police of using firearms to disperse the rioters.
The protests began on Tuesday with thousands of teachers taking the streets of several Brazilian cities to celebrate Teachers’ Day and demand a raise.
In Rio, some of them called for the resignation of Governor Sérgio Cabral, an ally of President Dilma Rousseff. But as the protest was coming to an end, at around 8.30pm (local time), activists from an anarchist group joined the demonstration.
The Black Bloc activists attacked several banks, the US consulate and a police car, according to Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo.
Several shop owners said clashes between police and protesters were extremely violent. According to local press, the police even used firearms against the rioters, which is expressly banned by law.
Protests have agitated the streets of Rio de Janeiro — which will host several World Cup matches next year and will be the only host of the Olympic Games in 2016 — since June, when a wave of protests rocked all of Brazil and surprised the political establishment with a wide array of demands: from public employees demanding a raise to people complaining about the rising cost of the country hosting the World Cup next year.
Riots in Rio continued until yesterday morning when a young protester — 18-year-old Rodrigo Gonçalves Acoubel — received two gunshot wounds on his arms and had to be operated on at a local hospital.
GloboTV showed footing of a man dressed as a civilian who fired shots in the air very close to where the protesters were gathered.
A spokesman for the Secretariat of Security rejected claims that the police had used firearms to scatter protesters but he did say, however, that they had used tear gas.
More than 200 people were arrested in Rio, while the Sao Paulo police said it detained at least 56 people for their alleged participation in violent acts.
In São Paulo, where local media said protests were not as massive as in Rio, all of those arrested were released.
Demonstrations also reached the cities of Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre.
Teachers in Rio are demanding better working conditions and salaries and have the support of colleagues in other cities.
They have been on strike for two months and many complained that Rio's state government had started procedures to sanction the striking teachers.
But on Tuesday night, a Supreme Court judge said it considered the government's actions illegal.
Judge Luiz Fux told Brazil's state news agency, Agéncia Brasil, that the sanctions infringed, “even if in a roundabout way, the civil servants' right to freedom of expressions through strike.”
Fux also summoned union leaders and government officials for talks on October 22.
Rio slum killing
In related news, the Rio de Janeiro’s prosecutor’s office said yesterday more police officers may be charged in the killing of a slum dweller.
Press officer Sérgio Durán said the exact number is not clear, “but it could be more than 10.”
Prosecutors have already charged 10 police officers suspected of torturing and killing bricklayer Ama-rildo de Souza in the Rocinha slum.
The case sparked outrage in Brazil, with protesters taking to the streets demanding that police be held accountable in the case.
Souza was last seen in police custody in the slum. The officers say they let him go shortly after taking him in for questioning about gang activities.
Investigators believe the officers later discarded Souza’s remains, which have not been found.
Herald with AP, Télam, online media