Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff spoke about her generation’s struggles in battling a dictatorship during a prime-time speech meant to connect with the youth who have energised widespread and at times violent anti-government protests.
The 10-minute address ended Ms. Rousseff’s much-criticised silence in the face of the protests. She promised to make improvements in urban transportation and to battle corruption, but offered few details on how that would happen.
The leader added she would soon hold a meeting with leaders of the protest movement, Governors and the Mayors of major cities. But it remained unclear exactly who could represent the massive and decentralised groups of demonstrators taking to the streets, venting anger against woeful public services despite a high tax burden.
Ms. Rousseff said her government would create a national plan for public transportation in cities — a hike in bus and subway fares in many cities was the original complaint of the protests. She also reiterated her backing for a plan before congress to invest all oil revenue royalties in education and a promise she made earlier to bring in foreign doctors to areas that lack physicians.
“I want institutions that are more transparent, more resistant to wrongdoing,” she said in reference to perceptions of deep corruption in Brazilian politics, which is emerging as a focal point of the protests. “It’s citizenship and not economic power that must be heard first.”
The leader, a former Marxist rebel who fought against Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime and was imprisoned for three years and tortured by the junta, pointedly referred to earlier sacrifices made to free the nation from dictatorship.
“My generation fought a lot so that the voice of the streets could be heard,” she said. “Many were persecuted, tortured and many died for this. The voice of the street must be heard and respected and it can’t be confused with the noise and truculence of some troublemakers.”