- POSTED: 08 Feb 2014 01:15
Authorities in Brazil said 28 demonstrators were arrested during violent protests that left several people injured, including a news cameraman who was in a coma fighting for his life.
RIO DE JANEIRO: Authorities in Brazil on Friday said 28 demonstrators were arrested during violent protests that left several people injured, including a news cameraman who was in a coma fighting for his life.
More than 1,000 protesters angered over hikes in public transport fares overran a train, metro and bus depot in Rio de Janeiro late Thursday, in the latest flare-up of violence ahead of this year's World Cup games.
Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, who stormed into the station, refusing to pay their fares and shouting, "the station is free."
Protesters - some clad in black, others wearing masks - also destroyed automatic bank teller machines and threw rocks at riot police.
Some demonstrators, meanwhile, vandalized ticket machines and set a barricade ablaze. Several streets near the station were blocked off with flaming barricades.
Among the injured was cameraman Santiago Andrade of the Bandeirantes television network, who was hit in the head by a projectile - possibly a Molotov cocktail or a tear gas canister, officials said.
"Andrade is in very serious condition in the intensive care unit of the Souza Aguiar Hospital, where he was underwent a neurosurgical procedure after receiving a blow to the head," a hospital official said.
Doctors said Andrade had lost part of an ear and had required surgery to repair damage to his skull.
He was in a medically induced coma, they said.
Officials said the device had been thrown by protesters, but the O Globo News wrote on its website that it had been hurled by police.
Some demonstrators, meanwhile, complained about a heavy-handed police response.
"The only ones being violent are police. I saw one attack a guy just for carrying a banner," said Natacha de Pina, who works at a bank in the station.
"We threw things at the police because we suffer every day. Three reais is absurd," she said, referring to the new higher bus fare.
An AFP reporter saw an injured policeman being evacuated and also saw officers beating demonstrators, who vowed they would not pay the nine percent increase in bus fares imposed on Saturday. Three reais is US$1.25.
"We won't pay three reais" and "we want FIFA-standard trains," marchers shouted, referring to football's world governing body.
The protest, called by the Pasa Livre (free passage) movement, was the latest violence ahead of the month-long World Cup, which kicks off June 12.
The protest started peacefully but turned violent, as demonstrators fought running battles with police, who charged the crowd in an attempt to clear the area around the main bus station.
Turnout was far smaller than at protests which marred last year's Confederations Cup.
During those protests, about one million people took to the streets nationwide to protest billions of dollars Brazil has spent to prepare for the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics while the country grapples with poor public services.
Brazil also has witnessed a surge of public rage over the country's inadequate education and health infrastructure.