Brazil: Truckers block highways, demand better facilities

Brasilia: Brazilian truckers demanding cheaper fuel, better highways and lower tolls torched toll booths and crippled traffic in several regions on Wednesday, continuing their protests into a third day. More demonstrations demanding better public services were expected in Sao Paulo, the country's biggest city.

Police said truckers either partially or completely blocked interstate and intercity highways in at least six states and burned eight toll booths on the highway between the cities of Cosmopolis and Paulinia in the state of Sao Paulo.

File photo. Reuters

File photo of proteters clashing with security personnel in Brazil. Reuters

In most cases, truckers left one lane open so that buses, ambulances and passenger cars could bypass the blockades they erected.

President Dilma Rousseff vowed to try to prevent disruption to transportation.

"The country's highways cannot be blocked and my government will not remain quiet when faced with the interruption of the production process, the right to come and go and the life of the Brazilian people," she said Wednesday during a ceremony to sign an agreement allowing the private sector to invest in state-owned ports.

Organizers of Wednesday's other protest said in an emailed statement that demonstrators would be demanding free public transpiration, a reduction in the work week from 44 to 40 hours, rent control and the earmarking of 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product for education.

Also on Wednesday thousands of doctors took to the streets in several Brazilian cities in peaceful protests against government plans to attract up to 6,000 foreign doctors from Cuba, Spain and Portugal to work in areas underserved by Brazilian physicians.

The wave of protests that hit Brazil on 17 June began as opposition to transportation fare hikes, then expanded to include anger at high taxes, poor services, and high spending for the World Cup. Demonstrations eventually coalesced around the issue of rampant government corruption.

The Senate on Tuesday night approved legislation banning people convicted of corruption and other crimes from holding civil servant jobs. The so-called "clean record law" must still be passed by the lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies.

In 2009, a similar law prohibited politicians from running for public office for eight years if they had been convicted of crimes including abuse of power, corruption, money laundering and drug trafficking.

"We want to fight corruption at all levels," Sen. Eunicio Oliveira said.

The Senate last week passed legislation labeling corruption a "heinous crime." It also increases minimum prison terms from two to four years for those found guilty of corruption.

Also in response to the protesters, Congress' lower house on Tuesday night shelved a proposed bill that would allow psychologists to treat homosexuality as a disorder or pathology.

The bill was approved last month by a Brazilian congressional human rights committee.

Associated Press

Updated Date: Jul 04, 2013 11:17 AM

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