SAO PAULO (AP) — Protesters gathered for a new wave of massive demonstrations in Brazil on Thursday, extending the protests that have sent hundreds of thousands of people into the streets since last week to denounce poor public services and government corruption.
The biggest of the more than 80 demonstrations was expected in Rio de Janeiro, where protesters say they'll march on the iconic Maracana stadium where a Confederations Cup soccer game was scheduled. Protests were also planned in the country's biggest city, Sao Paulo, and towns all over the country.
Several city leaders have already accepted protester demands to revoke an increase in bus and subway fares and hope that anti-government anger cools.
In Sao Paulo, protest organizers said they would turn their demonstration into a party celebrating the lower transit fares. But many believe the protests are no longer just about bus fares and have become a cry for systemic changes in a country that's otherwise seen a decade-long economic boom.
The U.S. Embassy in Brazil wasn't taking any chances: It warned its citizens to stay away from the flurry of protests nationwide.
"It's not really about the price anymore," said Camila Sena, an 18-year-old university student at a Wednesday protest in Rio de Janeiro's sister city of Niteroi. "People are so disgusted with the system, so fed up that now we're demanding change."
Sena added that seeing money poured into soccer stadiums for the current Confederations Cup and next year's World Cup only added fuel to people's anger.
"It's not that we're against the World Cup, not at all. It will bring good things for Brazil. It's just that we're against the corruption that the World Cup has become an excuse for," she said.
Mass protests are rare in this 190 million-person country, with demonstrations generally attracting small numbers of politicized participants.
Many now marching in Brazil's streets hail from the growing middle class, which government figures show has ballooned by some 40 million people over the past decade amid a commodities-driven boom.
While the complaints of protesters are wide-ranging, there have been few answers about how to turn the disgruntlement into a coherent list of demands for the government.
In announcing the reversal of the fare hike, Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad said it "will represent a big sacrifice and we will have to reduce investments in other areas." He didn't give details on where other cuts would occur.
Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes also said his city's fare increase would be rescinded.
Despite that, scattered street demonstrations sprang up Wednesday in some parts of Brazil, including well into the night in Niteroi, as protesters continued to call for better public services in return for high taxes and rising prices.
About 200 people also blocked the Anchieta Highway that links Sao Paulo, the country's biggest city, and the port of Santos before heading to the industrial suburb of Sao Bernardo do Campo on Sao Paulo's outskirts. Another group of protesters later obstructed the highway again.
In the northeastern city of Fortaleza, 15,000 protesters clashed with police who kept them from reaching the Castelao stadium before Brazil's game with Mexico in the Confederations Cup.
"We are against a government that spends billions in stadiums while people are suffering across the country," said Natalia Querino, a 22-year-old student participating in the protest. "We want better education, more security and a better health system."
Associated Press writers Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo, Marco Sibaja in Brasilia and Tales Azzoni in Fortaleza contributed to this report.