Fresh protests erupt in Brazil despite Rousseff speech

Updated 23 June 2013
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Fresh protests erupt in Brazil despite Rousseff speech

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil: Fresh protests erupted across Brazil Saturday despite conciliatory remarks by President Dilma Rousseff, who pledged to improve public services and fight harder against corruption.
Rousseff’s televised address late Friday appeared to have done little to satisfy protesters, as activists vowed to continue the struggle and ordinarily football-mad Brazilians once again protested outside the Confederations Cup.
Some 60,000 people chanting “The Cup for whom?” rallied in the southeastern city of Belo Horizonte as a Japan-Mexico match was under way as part of the international football tournament, a dress rehearsal for next year’s World Cup.
Police fired tear gas when some of the protesters hurled stones and tried to break through the security perimeter around the Mineirao stadium.
“We are against the World Cup because it masks the problems the country faces,” said musician Leonardo Melo, who dismissed Rousseff’s speech as “rhetoric.”
Over the past two weeks, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians have protested against the billions of dollars being spent on the World Cup, accusing the government of wasting money and neglecting health, education and transport.
More than one million marched in scores of cities on Thursday.
In Salvador, where Brazil faced Italy in another Confederations Cup match, a small crowd of around 200 protested Saturday, according to an AFP reporter.
Inside the stadium, dozens of fans brandished placards proclaiming: “Let’s go to the streets to change Brazil,” while other protests were held in a dozen cities, including Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
In Sao Paulo, hundreds of people protested against a proposed constitutional amendment that would take away the power of independent public prosecutors to probe crimes, making it harder to combat corruption.
As the Rousseff government tried to address the ever rising tide of dissatisfaction over its social policies, former football star-turned Socialist politician Romario joined the debate, praising the demonstrators and dubbing world football body FIFA “Brazil’s real president.”
In her address, Rousseff offered Brazilians a “great pact” between the government and the people to improve shoddy public services and stressed the need for “more effective ways to fight corruption.”
But her intervention left the protesters unmoved, judging by a torrent of comments on social media websites.
“I was depressed listening to Dilma. It’s a joke, right? Dilma treats us as if we are idiots,” read one typical comment.
“We want dates and times, action. Promises are not enough,” wrote another.
FIFA, however, which is helping Brazil host the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup, praised Rousseff’s conciliatory message.
“We welcome President Rousseff’s address to the nation and reaffirm our cooperation to help the government ensure a successful and safe Confederations Cup and World Cup,” the world football governing body said.
The protests have been largely peaceful but some have been marred by violence and acts of vandalism, notably in Rio and Brasilia, with two deaths recorded to date.
The popular outrage, dubbed by some a “Tropical Spring,” echoing similar protest movements in the Arab world, the United States and more recently in Turkey, has come as a shock to outside observers.
Rousseff’s predecessor and political mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva left office in 2010 with a soaring 80 percent approval rating, and his social policies are credited with lifting 40 million Brazilians out of poverty.
Lula also helped raise Brazil’s international profile, and the World Cup was seen as a key milestone in its emergence as a global power player after several years of steady economic growth.
But despite the nationwide obsession with football, the protesters say they feel left behind as they watch gleaming new stadiums spring up in cities paralyzed by traffic jams and clogged with aging trains and buses.
“People have a right to criticize,” Rousseff said, promising to meet with the leaders of peaceful demonstrations as well as workers and community leaders.
But the president warned against further violence, saying “the government cannot stand by as people attack public property ... and bring chaos to our streets.”
In Sao Paulo, the Free Pass Movement (MPL) that kicked off the nationwide protests over a hike in mass transit fares two weeks ago said on its Facebook page that the demonstrations would go on despite the repeal of the increase.
The MPL now says it will press on until public transport is free of charge.


More than 70 countries commit to combat terror financing

Updated 26 min ago
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More than 70 countries commit to combat terror financing

  • Participants at an international conference in Paris agreed to “fully criminalize” terror financing
  • The two-day event was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron

PARIS: More than 70 countries committed Thursday to bolster efforts in the fight against terrorism financing associated with Daesh and Al-Qaeda.
Participants at an international conference in Paris agreed to “fully criminalize” terror financing through effective and proportionate sanctions “even in the absence of a link to a specific terrorist act.”
The two-day event was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron to coordinate efforts to reduce the terror threat in the long-term.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, IMF chief Christine Lagarde, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Abdel Al-Jubeir and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani were all present.
Macron, who has returned to France from a state visit to the United States, is expected to close the conference later with a call for the necessity for multilateral action.
Daniel Lewis, executive secretary of the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force, said he is hoping that words will be put into action.
“When we have information — for example the UN list of individuals and entities financing terrorism — we need to make sure measures like asset freezing are implemented fully and quickly,” Lewis told The Associated Press.
Participants called for better information-sharing between intelligence services, law enforcement, financial businesses and the technology industry. They also agreed to improve the traceability of funds going to non-governmental organizations and charity associations.
Participants included countries that have accused each other of funding terrorism, notably in the Arabian Gulf.
France has pushed for international coordination and more transparency in financial transactions. But it has recognized how sensitive the issue is, and saw the conference as a first step for coordinated action.
The French organizers noted that Daesh military defeats on the ground have not prevented the group from pursuing its terrorist activities, along with Al-Qaeda — especially in unstable regions of Afghanistan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Yemen, Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa.
Terror groups don’t only rely on the cash economy — they’re using increasingly hard-to-track tools like prepaid cards, online wallets and crowdfunding operations.
Daesh has also invested in businesses and real estate to ensure its financing. Daesh revenues alone were estimated at $2.5 billion between 2014 and 2016, according to the French president’s office.
Though most of the attacks in Western countries do not cost a lot of money, a French official said terror groups “behave like big organizations” in that it “costs a lot to recruit, train, equip people and spread propaganda.” The official was speaking anonymously under the presidency’s customary practice.
The French counterterrorism prosecutor Francois Molins told FranceInfo radio that Daesh uses micro-financing techniques to collect a great number of small amounts of money.
Work with the financial intelligence unit helped identify 416 people in France who have donated money to Daesh over the last two years, he said.
Money, he said, went to “320 collectors mostly based in Turkey and Lebanon from whom jihadis in Iraq and Syria could receive funds.”
In recent years, the US and other Western nations have encouraged Middle Eastern nations to close off such sources.
However, allegations over extremist funding in part sparked a near-yearlong boycott of Qatar by four Arab states.
Qatar denies funding extremists, though it has faced Western criticism about being lax in enforcing rules.
Participants agreed to hold a similar conference next year in Australia.