BRASILIA, Brazil – More than a week of massive, violent protests across Brazil finally broke the near-silence from President Dilma Rousseff, who said during a prime time TV broadcast Friday that peaceful demonstrations were part of a strong democracy but that violence could not be tolerated.
Rousseff, standing before a Brazilian flag, said that the government knew there were many things we can do quicker and better and that Brazil fought hard to become a democratic country but that she could not tolerate the violence carried out by a minority of the protesters.
The leader, a former Marxist rebel who fought against Brazil’s 1964-85 military regime and was imprisoned for three years and tortured by the junta, pointedly referred to sacrifices her generation made to free the nation from dictatorship.
We need to oxygenate our political system and make it more transparent, Rousseff said.
Many Brazilians had tried to guess the president’s reaction, especially after about 1 million anti-government demonstrators took to the streets the night before across the country to denounce things as varied as poor public services and the billions of dollars spent preparing for next year’s World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
The protests continued Friday, as about 1,000 people marched in western Rio de Janeiro city, with some looting stores and invading an enormous $250 million arts center that remains empty after several years of construction. Police tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas as they were pelted with rocks. Police said some in the crowd were armed and firing at officers.
The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops came out in favor of the protests, saying in a statement that it maintains solidarity and support for the demonstrations, as long as they remain peaceful. The protests show all of us that we cannot live in a country with so much inequality.