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Rioting protesters return to Brazil streets
by Staff Writers
Sao Paulo (UPI) Oct 31, 2013

Bachelet confident of return to Chilean presidency
Santiago, Chile (UPI) Oct 31, 2013 - Former Chilean President Michele Bachelet seems confident of winning back the presidency, taking office from incumbent Sebastian Pinera, but admits she faces a tough fight ahead on education reforms and poverty reduction.

Chile has prospered under Pinera but, at the same time, been saddled with political turmoil over the country's top-heavy social structure, where analysts say a tiny elite holds sway and perpetuates chronic inequality in education, income distribution and discriminatory class structure.

Entrenched wealthy elites so far have thwarted efforts by Pinera to dismantle those structures, reform the class-driven education system and blunt economic instruments that hold back Chileans on low wages. Millionaire Pinera has faced charges, which he denies, that he's a member of the elite: uncaring, aloof and unaware of the pain of the poor.

In contrast, Bachelet, 62, left the presidency in 2010, her popularity intact, after a four-year term as the constitution required. She now leads the polls before the first round of presidential election Nov. 17.

Analysts say Bachelet needs to win a clear majority to support her promised reforms, often described in the media as a kind of palace revolution. If elected, Bachelet wants to tax the rich, raise corporate taxes and rewrite a constitution inherited from the 1973-90 dictatorial regime of Augusto Pinochet.

Support for such sweeping reforms is far from guaranteed, analysts say. While most of her proposed changes will win her popularity, Bachelet will struggle to get such radical reforms through congress, challenging legislators with entrenched ties in the system she wants to reform.

Chile's high-income economy has won the country membership in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development group of industrial nations, and praise from the United Nations and the World Bank. But Chile has also drawn criticism because of the level of economic inequality measured by the Gini index.

Bachelet has alarmed Chile's economic elite with promises of widespread change. An estimated 47 percent of Chileans surveyed for a poll said they would vote for Bachelet while only 14 percent backed right-wing candidate Evelyn Matthei, 59, and 10 percent supported independent economist Franco Parisi. About 16 percent were undecided or unlikely to vote.

Matthei's approval ratings got hit by family associations with the Pinochet regime and public disenchantment with the right-wing coalition she represents, which also backs Pinera.

Analysts said Bachelet's chances of securing a comfortable majority in the Legislature to carry through her radical reforms could still be affected by skepticism about the outcome of proposed changes and their likely impact on both the rich and the middle class. Bachelet's taxation reforms in particular have put many entrenched vested interests on guard.

Bachelet is back as a presidential candidate because Chile's electoral law allows non-consecutive re-election. Election is direct by an absolute majority. If no candidate obtains such majority, a runoff election determines the winner between the top two vote-getters.

Foreigners legally resident for five years or more also are allowed to vote.

Rioting protesters returned to Brazilian streets in an outburst of anger over the police killing of a 17-year-old boy in earlier unrest.

This week's worst disturbances paralyzed parts of Sao Paolo, where damage from marauding marchers' random attacks on urban property was said to be extensive, multiple media reports said.

Officials blame an anarchist group called Black Bloc but critics say the official contention doesn't add up to the full story behind the latest violence, which is rooted in public discontent over many issues.

Police used teargas to control the protesters and made at least 92 arrests.

A million people went on the march in June to heap indignation on President Dilma Rousseff's administration, faulting her for a whole range of alleged failures -- from an ineffective crackdown on corruption in public institutions, to unbridled crime in Brazil's cities, to unnecessarily high spending on Brazil's preparations for FIFA World Cup next year and the Summer Olympics in 2016.

Her critics in the opposition and influential media say the government spending on those two prestige projects could be more justifiable if the government would enforce greater checks and balances, fight graft, inefficiencies, cronyism and neglect of the country's more pressing poverty reduction and infrastructure programs.

Millions of Brazilians live in squalor next to neighborhoods marked out by critics for consumer excess, affluence and comforts enjoyed by a small minority of wealthy or middle class citizens.

Crime infestation of favela slums and high homicide rates have angered Brazilians who see those problems as a shameful blight for a nation masquerading, critics say, behind an entirely different exterior presentation to the world outside.

Police reported at least 90 arrests in the latest riots after protesters torched public transport buses and other vehicles. The police killing of 17-year-old Douglas Rodrigues triggered the riots, news media reported.

Some protesters carried firearms and one person was taken to hospital with gunshot wounds, police said.

There have been scant eyewitness reports, an indication that the news media are effectively intimated by the unpredictable nature of police and security forces' response. Journalists routinely complain of harassment by law enforcement agents.

Police say an officer responding to a disturbance in the city's northern Vila Medeiros neighborhood accidentally shot Rodrigues, who was rushed to hospital and died there.

As the news of the boy's death spread, hundreds of angry youths went on a rampage, attacking banks, cash dispensing machines, shops and vehicles.

Sao Paulo has a sprawling metropolitan area with 20 million inhabitants and sharp differences in quality of housing and life across neighborhoods. It is the city chosen to host the opening game of the World Cup June 12, 2014.

Government ministers have taken pains to reassure FIFA officials, other international organizations and tourism operators that unrest during the tournaments is very unlikely. Brazilians will be more interested in celebrating the games than complaining about their cost, Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said.


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