Last night saw the second night of protests on Avenida Paulista in downtown Sao Paulo, as some 10,000 demonstrators closed the main thoroughfare through the city center, lighting fires and destroying city property.
The new protest against the increase in bus, subway, and train fares ended with 16 people arrested, including a 16-year-old boy. According to the Civil Police Civil, ten were imprisoned without bail for conspiracy, arson, and damage to private equity. They were transferred this morning to a CDP (Provisional Detention Center) from the capital. Others were fined and released.
Five police officers were injured as protesters threatened to lynch some of them, and one female police officer broke her arm as police countered the protest in riot gear and used tear gas to dispel the crowd, which broke into smaller groups and continued their mayhem.
According to the statement released by police, protesters damaged seven buses during the protest, which lasted about six hours. Objects seized by the police included fireworks, plates, gas mask, fire extinguishers, and even a bicycle.
We’d been warned about the protests by the American Consulate Security Office, and knew that the protest would impact the center of the city, as well as all traffic leading to the area.
This is the third protest made against the increase in bus fares in less than a week. Last Thursday, protesters led by the Movement Free Pass closed avenues like Nove de Julio, 23rd of May, and Paulista Avenue. There was confrontation with the police then, and the protesters left a trail of vandalism.
The protests are against an increase in bus fees from R$3 ($1.50) to R$3.20 ($1.20), a 6.7% price increase. The authorities say that the rise is well below inflation, which since the last price rise in January 2011 has been at 15.5%, according to official figures. In the case of the Metro and trains, the last adjustment occurred in February 2012.
Costs increase here in Brazil every September as the rate indices are automatically adjusted up 8% minimum for all products and services. That’s why prices are so high here: food, retail items, gasoline, restaurants, etc.
A 6.7% increase in bus fare doesn’t seem like much statistically, but for the working poor, who often must take several buses to get to and from work, it’s a significant increase. Those who can will pass the cost along to their employers.
Our once-a-week maid informed me yesterday that she now has to charge for her bus fare to get to our place (she takes three buses each way, costing almost R$19). It’s common to pay for bus fare and for food (she doesn’t charge us or eat our food) for daily workers, but she never charged us last year. Now we’ll pay. Once again, the cost of the increase is passed along.