A day after more than 250,000 people took to the streets of major cities in mostly peaceful rallies, and with thousands more gathered in the city of Sao Paolo for a second day of protest, Rousseff expressed understanding.
“These voices need to be heard,” she said in an address at the presidential palace. “My government is listening to these voices for change.”
“My government is committed to social transformation,” she added, hailing what she called the largely peaceful nature of the protests.
An estimated 50,000 people, according to the polling institute Datafolha, had returned to the streets in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s economic capital, to denounce waste, corruption and higher public transport fares.
Rousseff announced she was heading to the city for talks with her predecessor and mentor, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Local press reports said Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad was to join the discussions, expected to focus on a reduction of mass transit fares.
Earlier, Haddad said he had agreed to discuss the protesters’ demands following a meeting with representatives of the Free Pass Movement who are sticking to their demands for free transport.
Several Brazilian cities, including Porto Alegre and Recife, moved quickly to reduce public transport fares as a concession to the demonstrators.
Sao Paulo’s bus ticket price hike was the catalyst for a nation-wide explosion of anger over the $15 billion the government is investing in major sporting events while social needs like education and health are neglected.
Monday’s demonstrations were the biggest in Brazil since those against corruption in 1992 under the rule of Fernando Collor de Mello, who was subsequently impeached.
Several players from the national football squad expressed solidarity.
Chelsea defender David Luiz led his Brazil teammates in speaking out.
“I’m in favor of demonstrations without violence,” Luiz told reporters prior to Brazil’s Conderations Cup match against Mexico in Fortaleza.
“Citizens have a right to express their opinions and the fact they’re not happy. It’s a way of achieving their demands and improving the situation in the country,” he said.
Luiz’s international teammate Dani Alves, the Barcelona full-back, also gave his backing to the protesters, who are mostly young people.
On his Instagram online photo-sharing account, he posted a picture of a giant eye with yellow and green colors, as well as the motto of the national flag: “Order and Progress.”
“Order and Progress without violence for a better Brazil, a peaceful Brazil, an educated, healthy, honest and happy Brazil,” he wrote.
Thousands young protesters, responding to calls made on social media networks, massed outside the Se Cathedral, the city’s historic heart, in a colorful show of popular strength with strong anti-government tones.
The mood was festive, with many waving the Brazilian flag before singing the national anthem in a boisterous display of patriotic fervor, but there were clashes later with pepper-spray
According to a survey by Datafolha, the main reasons for the protest in Sao Paulo was the increase in mass transit fares — from $1.5 to $1.6 — in a country where the monthly minimum wage is $339.