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Brazilians Push Back Against Porto Alegre Bus Fare Increase

[All links lead to pages in Portuguese.]

A fight is brewing in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre over an increase in bus fares.

The municipal arm that oversees the city's public transportation announced on February 15, 2013 that they would raise ticket prices from 2.85 Brazilian reais (1.43 United States dollars) to 3.30 reais (1.65 US dollars), an increase of 14.82 percent.

Residents immediately mobilized against the decision, deeming the spike unfair. Some called for renewed bidding on the city's transportation contract, pointing out that Porto Alegre has not opened up bidding since 1989.

The movement

The movement “Bloco de Luta” campaigns through Twitter.

Public opinion of the Public Company for Transportation and Circulation, as the agency is called, was already low before it announced the controversial fare increase. The regional public prosecutor's office led a special investigation in 2011 into the agency's accounts, finding that its criteria for fare adjustment included the total number of vehicles in its fleet.

In an opinion [pdf] dated January 25, 2013 and authored by Gerard Da Camino, the attorney general for the state of Rio Grande do Sul, the office stated that fare calculation should only take into consideration working vehicles, not all vehicles.

The agency filed an appeal with the public prosecutor's office in response​​. Its aim is to show what the actual size of the fleet is.

Civil society has spoken against the measure. Even before the agency announced the increase, residents held a rally on January 21, 2013, in the city center against the possibility, reported by Sul 21:

Durante todo o ato, que se encerrou em uma concentração em frente à prefeitura, os manifestantes entoaram diversos gritos de protesto, como “Mãos ao alto! Esse aumento é um assalto!” e “Pra trabalhar! Pra estudar! Mais um aumento eu não vou pagar”. Algumas frases atacavam diretamente o prefeito José Fortunati (PDT), como “Estudo! Trabalho! Dou duro o dia inteiro! Fortunati anda de carro e ainda rouba o meu dinheiro!”

Throughout the demonstration, which ended in front of the city hall, protesters shouted several chants, such as “Hands up! This increase is a robbery!” and “To work! To study! Another increase I will not pay.” Some phrases directly attacked Mayor Jose Fortunati such as “Study! Work! I work hard all day! Fortunati drives his car and still steals my money!”
Bus in Porto Alegre. Photo by mardruck on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Bus in Porto Alegre. Photo by mardruck on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The group Bloco de Luta pelo Transporte Público (Block to Fight for Public Transportation), “composed of various organizations united in the struggle against the increase of ticket fares and for the quality of a popular, collective public transportation” in the city, gathers information about protests against the fare increase on social networks. The group organized a protest via Facebook for February 18.

"Because we fight! I don't pay, I wouldn't pay, transportation is not a commodity! http://twitpic.com/bxfb05 "

The profile Bloco de Luta POA (@blocodeluta) spread this image on Twitter on January 22, “Because we fight! I don't pay, I wouldn't pay, transportation is not a commodity!” http://twitpic.com/bxfb05

On the event page, a user named Guilherme Lauterbach commented:

O Tribunal de Contas do Estado diz que a passagem em Porto Alegre deveria baixar de R$2,85 para R$2,60 e que “as empresas estão operando com uma lucratividade em sua grande maioria superior ao previsto pela planilha tarifária”. Acaba de ser pedido um aumento para 3,30. Não podemos aceitar. Queremos a redução e não o aumento da passagem. Fortunati, vai atender os interesses dos empresários?

The Audit Office of the State says that the ticket in Porto Alegre should decrease from 2.85 Brazilian reais [1.43 US dollars] to 2.60 reais [1.30 US dollars] and that “companies are operating with a profit which is mostly higher than expected by the tariff plan.” An increased to 3.30 has just been asked. We can not accept it. We want to reduce and not increase the fares. [Mayor] Fortunati, will [you] serve the interests of the business men?

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