TRAINING IN RIO: More than half a million Brazilians poured into the streets of at least 80 Brazilian cities Thursday in demonstrations that saw violent clashes and renewed calls for an end to government corruption and demands for better public services. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
TRAINING IN RIO: More than half a million Brazilians poured into the streets of at least 80 Brazilian cities Thursday in demonstrations that saw violent clashes and renewed calls for an end to government corruption and demands for better public services. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org

HARRISBURG – The head of an international union based in Washington, D.C., endorsed violence in the streets of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere in Brazil – and warned that similar violence could take place in America unless governments continue subsidizing mass transit with more tax dollars.

“The Brazilian protests should also serve as a warning to all politicians that they will jeopardize their own political future if they ignore the needs of the burgeoning number of public transportation users in the United States and Canada,” said Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, an international labor union representing employees of public transit agencies.

Hanley praised the Brazilian riots for demonstrating “what can be achieved by standing strong together to fight against bus and subway fare hikes.”

Hanley said the union stands “in solidarity” with the protesters – apparently supporting the destruction of public and private property across the Latin American nation.

Initially organized by The Free Fare Movement in opposition to transit fare hikes, they have become populist uprisings protesting government corruption and mismanagement.

In the U.S., subsidies for mass transit are increasing faster than ridership.

According to a 2010 report from the America Public Transportation Association, a pro-transit group, the cost of operating mass transit services in the United States grew by almost 200 percent from 1970 to 2010.  Meanwhile, ridership on America’s mass transit systems increased by just 33 percent during the same interval.

From the same report:  the cost per rider increased by 124 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars during those 40 years and subsidies (defined as fares minus operating costs) grew by more than 8 times.

This week, Brazil is playing host to the Confederations Cup, a sort-of warm up to the World Cup, which the nation will host next summer.  With a least a bit of the media spotlight on Brazil’s major cities, groups began protesting last week in opposition to transit fare hikes that have been enacted in order to pay for large-scale mass transit upgrades in advance of next summer’s World Cup, which will play out in 16 different cities across the nation.

As an aside: this is one of the biggest problems with huge international sporting events – nations spend millions of dollars for things like new mass transit systems that will be used by visitors for a few weeks at best, leaving residents to pay the bills.

Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.org and bureau chief for PA Independent.  He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com

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