RIO DE JANEIRO — President Dilma Rousseff pledged on Friday to open new channels of dialogue with Brazil's youth, the dominant demographic in nationwide protests that have rocked the country over the past two weeks.
Rousseff and Education Minister Aloizio Mercadante met in the capital city of Brasilia with leaders from 25 youth organizations, including student and labor unions, as well as with gay rights advocates as part of the Brazilian leader's continuing talks with different interest groups.
No concrete announcements resulted from the talks, which Rousseff's office cast as the start of a dialogue with the nation's youth. Though no follow-up meetings have yet been scheduled, the July 8 launch of a long-planned government website focusing on youth issues will help facilitate continued dialogue, Rousseff's office said.
The demonstrations took off earlier this month over a 10-cent hike in bus and subway fare in Sao Paulo and morphed into a mass, nationwide movement voicing public dissatisfaction with a range of issues such as government corruption, poor education and health care.
Scattered smaller protests continued on Friday, with a demonstration by taxi drivers near Rio de Janeiro's Santos Dumont domestic airport over proposed changes to the rules governing taxi licenses. Riot police in Sao Paulo state used tear gas grenades to disperse a small group of demonstrators who had blocked a multi-lane highway, and another demonstration was under way in the city of Natal.
Social networks, which were a main forum for organizing protest last week that brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets, were abuzz Friday with rumors of a general strike next Monday. According to the posts on social media, the strike is to take place in every state and will focus on demands for better public services and an end to corruption as well as several labor-related issues like reducing the work week from 44 to 40 hours and the shelving of a bill that would allow companies to increase the use of outsourced workers.
However, representatives for Brazil's two biggest unions, the Central Workers Union and Union Force, said they knew nothing about a general strike. They said they're planning a national slowdown for July 11.