Brazilians President Dilma Rousseff has promised to improve public services but says any further violence will not be tolerated in a speech to the nation rocked by mass protests.
During a TV broadcast Brazil President Dilma Rousseff appealed for unity and said the government knew there were many things “we can do quicker and better”.
“I am the president of all Brazil. Of those who support the demonstration and those who do not.”
Reaching out to those who feel the government should direct more money to public services rather than on hosting major sporting events, she insisted that “football and sport are symbols of peace and peaceful coexistence”.
But she added she would not stand by if demonstrations turned violent, as has been the case in several cities hit by cases of looting and attacks on public buildings including the foreign ministry and several government offices.
“The government cannot stand by as people attack public property … and bring chaos to our streets,” she stressed.
“We need to inject oxygen into our political system, and make it more transparent and resistant to the tough challenges facing a countries marked by extreme disparity between rich and poor.”
But she insisted that “we cannot put up with violence”.
“People have a right to criticise,” added Ms Rousseff saying she would staunchly defend that right.
She added: “We need to oxygenate our political system … and make it more transparent.”
Ms Rousseff, a former Marxist rebel who fought against Brazil’s 1964-85 military regime and was imprisoned for three years, pointedly referred to sacrifices her generation made to free the nation from dictatorship.
Her comments came after nearly one million demonstrators took to the streets on Friday across the country to denounce alleged corruption, poor public services and billions of dollars spent preparing for next year’s World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
Ms Rousseff had cancelled a trip overseas because of the unrest, but stayed away from the public eye for most of the week.
But critics of Ms Rousseff and her government have accused them of paying “lip service”.
Carlos Cardozo, a 62-year-old financial consultant who joined Friday’s protest in Rio, said he thought the unrest could cost Ms Rousseff next year’s elections.
“Her paying lip service by saying she’s in favour of the protests is not helping her cause,” Mr Cardozo said. “People want to see real action, real decisions, and it’s not this government that’s capable of delivering.”
At least one protester was killed in Sao Paulo on Thursday night when a motorist – apparently enraged about being unable to drive along a street – rammed his car into a crowd of demonstrators.
Unconfirmed news reports also said a 54-year-old cleaning woman had died on Friday after inhaling tear gas.