Brazil students, teachers hold huge budget cut protests

Rio de Janeiro: Tens of thousands of students and teachers protested across Brazil in “defence of education” on Wednesday in response to a raft of budget cuts announced by President Jair Bolsonaro’s government.
Classes were suspended in federal universities and secondary schools across Brazil’s 27 states in the first nationwide protests against the far-right president since he took office on January 1.
Protesters flocked onto the streets in Brazil’s biggest cities including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, in marches that grew steadily larger as the day wore on.
The budget cuts feature a 30 per cent reduction in subsidies paid to state-owned universities.
Bolsonaro blasted the protesters. He accused leftist militants of stoking the protests.
Speaking from Texas — where he was to receive an award from the US-Brazil Chamber of Commerce — Bolsonaro defended his education policy, saying he had inherited “a Brazil that was destroyed economically.”
He added that necessary budget cuts had been “lower than forecast.”
Some 15,000 protesters marched in the capital Brasilia, while 20,000 took part in demonstrations in the northern city of Belem, according to police.
Organizers said 70,000 people marched in the leftist stronghold of Salvador in the northeast.
Isolated incidents were reported. Police used tear gas to disperse protesters in the southern city of Porto Alegre, and a bus was set on fire at the end of the march in Rio.
Organisers estimated up to 150,000 people had taken to the streets in a massive demonstration in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s economic capital and biggest city, where protesters chanted the slogan: “Books Yes, Weapons No.”
Education Minister Abraham Weintraub — who sparked the protests by slashing the federal university subsidies — was forced to defend his policy in Congress.
Weintraub insisted the government “is not responsible for the disaster of basic education in Brazil.” — AFP