Brazil's students protest education cuts

Students and teachers have taken to the streets in more than half of Brazil's states to protest deep cuts in funding for public education. The government ordered soldiers to guard the Education Ministry in the capital.

Tens of thousands of students and teachers from across Brazil have demonstrated in "defense of education" after spending freezes were announced by the government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

Classes at universities and colleges were suspended in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and 17 of the country's 27 states on Wednesday, local media reported. Government soldiers were seen guarding the Education Ministry in the capital, Brasilia.

Protesters said Education Minister Abraham Weintraub's decision to cut federal university subsidies by 30% would undermine the ability of universities to fulfill their mandate.

The Education Ministry also announced last week that it would suspend scholarship payments to postgraduate students in the sciences.

Jair Bolsonaro: Brazil's far-right president in quotes

'Straight to the dictatorship'

Bolsonaro has criticized the very democracy that won him the presidency. In a 1999 TV interview, he said he would shut down Congress if he ever became president. "There is no doubt: I would perform a coup on the same day. And I'm sure that at least 90 percent of the population would celebrate and applaud because [Congress] doesn't work," Bolsonaro said. "Let's go straight to the dictatorship."

Jair Bolsonaro: Brazil's far-right president in quotes

'Rape'

Four years ago, Bolsonaro engaged in a heated debate with Brazilian lawmaker Maria do Rosario. During the debate, he said: "I wouldn't rape you because you don't deserve it." Shortly after, he defended himself, saying he wasn't a rapist. However, he added that if he were a rapist, he wouldn't touch do Rosario because she is "ugly."

Jair Bolsonaro: Brazil's far-right president in quotes

'Moment of weakness'

In a speech at Rio de Janeiro's Hebraica Club in April 2017, Bolsonaro spoke about his family. "I have five children. Four are men, and then in a moment of weakness the fifth came out a girl," he said.

Jair Bolsonaro: Brazil's far-right president in quotes

'Prefer my son to die'

LGBT activists have long railed against Bolsonaro for his homophobic stance. But in a 2011 Playboy magazine interview, Bolsonaro made things personal, saying he "would be incapable of loving a homosexual son … I would prefer my son to die in an accident than show up with a mustachioed man." In May 2002, he said that if he saw "two men kissing each other on the street" he would "beat them up."

Jair Bolsonaro: Brazil's far-right president in quotes

'No means to control their offspring'

Bolsonaro has often belittled impoverished communities. But in 2008, he took things a step further by suggesting poor people should be prevented from bearing children. Birth control "methods have to be provided for those who, unfortunately, are ignorant and have no means to control their offspring because we [as the upper middle class] are able to control ours."

"Secondary school pupils, university students, researchers, teachers and other education employees will take to the streets in every state," the National Student Union (UNE) said ahead of the demonstrations.

Bolsonaro, who was attending an event in Dallas, Texas, called the protesters "useful idiots, imbeciles, who are being used as the maneuvering mass of a clever little minority who make up the nucleus of many federal universities in Brazil."

Bolsonaro fired Weintraub's predecessor, Ricardo Velez, in April after he vowed to stamp out "cultural Marxism" and gender-identity "ideology."

amp/cmk (AFP, Reuters)

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