Dilma Rousseff says Brazil can do better, slams violence
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Embattled president Dilma Rousseff has admitted in a televised address that Brazil can do better and pledged to do more to fight corruption, a day after more than a million people marched to demand better living conditions.
"We can do many things a lot better in Brazil," said Rousseff yesterday, the day after the protesters demanded cheaper transport and more investment in education and health care as well as a tougher fight against endemic corruption.
"People have a right to criticise," Rousseff said, adding that she would staunchly defend that right.
Appealing for unity Rousseff, who promised to meet with the leaders of peaceful demonstrations as well as workers and community leaders, said: "I am the president of all Brazil – of those who support the demonstration and those who do not."
Reaching out to those who feel the government should direct more money to public services rather than on hosting major sporting events, she insisted that "football and sport are symbols of peace and peaceful coexistence."
But she added she would not stand by if demonstrations turned violent, as they have in several cities that have seen looting and attacks on public buildings including the foreign ministry in the capital Brasilia.
"The government cannot stand by as people attack public property ... and bring chaos to our streets," she stressed.
Nevertheless, Brazil needs the protesters' "energy and creativity", Rousseff said.
"We need to inject oxygen into our political system, and make it more transparent and resistant" to the tough challenges facing a country marked by extreme disparity between rich and poor."
But some protesters – most of whom were young, middle-class and educated – were unimpressed with Rousseff's words.
Earlier Rousseff's chief of staff Gilberto Carvalho warned that the country must plan for the possibility that the unrest could continue during World Youth Day, the Catholic youth festival due to be held in Rio in late July, which Pope Francis is due to attend.