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UPDATE 1-Brazil's Rousseff proposes political reform to quell protests
June 24, 2013 / 9:57 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Brazil's Rousseff proposes political reform to quell protests

(Adds quotes from Rousseff, details of measures)
    SAO PAULO, June 24 (Reuters) - Brazilian President Dilma
Rousseff on Monday proposed a popular referendum to embark on a
sweeping political reform in response to the country's largest
public protests in 20 years.
    Rousseff called for a public vote to eventually amend
Brazil's constitution as she sought to seize the momentum in a
national debate set off by two weeks of increasingly disruptive
demonstrations.
    The president also laid out an agenda to cut taxes on public
transportation costs, accelerate investment in hospitals and
crack down on political corruption - recurring concerns raised
by Brazil's nameless, leaderless protest movement.
    "The streets are telling us that the country wants quality
public services, more effective measures to combat corruption
... and responsive political representation," Rousseff said in
remarks to a meeting of governors and mayors.
    While vowing to crack down on a violent minority that has
looted stores and vandalized government buildings, Rousseff
praised the democratic spirit of most protesters and framed her
agenda as addressing their concerns.
    Still, a sluggish economy has left Rousseff with little room
to maneuver the federal budget and protesters are unlikely to
see rapid improvements in their daily lives. A constitutional
reform by referendum could take years as the government must
arrange a public vote and compose a constitutional committee to
debate the overhaul of Brazil's representative democracy.
    
    Rousseff proposed an additional 50 billion reais ($22
billion) of investments to address the complaints about public
transport that first set off the protests that have shaken
markets and threatened her enduring popularity.
    The mostly peaceful demonstrations peaked on Thursday, when
about a million people took to the streets in cities across
Brazil with occasional instances of violence and vandalism.
    Recent days have been calmer but social media points to
another round of protests focused around an international soccer
match on Wednesday between Brazil and Uruguay in the city of
Belo Horizonte.
    The demands for better public services have raised concerns
about looser government spending, which Rousseff sought to head
off by introducing her agenda with a call for fiscal discipline.
    The president reiterated her proposals to set aside future
oil royalties for education and import doctors from abroad.    
    She may struggle to find new tax revenue for her agenda,
however, as the economy struggles to gain steam, inflation is
eating away at purchasing power, and rising interest rates are
making consumer credit more costly. Two straight years of what
many economists decry as fiscal slippage under Rousseff have
made it even tougher to increase spending.
    ($1 = 2.25 Brazilian reais)

 (Reporting by Brad Haynes and Caroline Stauffer; Additional
reporting by Maria Pia Palermo and Maria Carolina Marcelo;
Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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