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The country’s most prestigious and competitive federally funded universities, university hospitals, research grants and federally funded high schools are affected by the cuts.
Brazilian president slams tens of thousands of students and teachers who, while protesting the government's education cuts Wednesday night across Brazil, were met with resistance and subsequently teargassed by the police force.
Chants of “education is not a commodity” and “there will be no cuts, there will be fight,” could be heard during the fiery clash with law enforcement, that also included the launch of grenades, the Guardian reported.
“The government makes mayhem. Public universities make science,” read one sign referencing a comment made by education minister Abraham Weintraub, in which he said, “Universities that instead of trying to achieve the best academic form, are just making a mayhem, will have their budgets cut.”
The budget for universities is divided into mandatory expenses, such as salaries and pensions, which cannot be reduced, and "discretionary" expenses, which includes water and electricity bills, housing for foreign students or maintenance work.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who is on a visit to the United States, denied that the government had made any cuts to the education budgets and accused the protesters - who unusually across social classes - of being encouraged by partisan leaning.
“It’s normal, but most of them there are militant. If you ask them about the formula for water, they don’t know it, they don’t know anything. They are useful idiots who are being used as a confused mass for a smart minority that makes up the core of federal universities in Brazil.”
However, Brazil’s education ministry had announced that it would be freezing up to 30% of discretionary spending to subsidize government shortfall.
Sao Paulo demonstrators, who occupied the city center for hours, chanted "Bolsonaro Out" and displayed signs that read "my weapon is my education."
The country’s most prestigious and competitive federally funded universities, university hospitals, research grants and federally funded high schools are affected by the cuts, the ministry of education noted and added that the measure was specifically implemented to cap spending.
“The priority is preschool, elementary school and technical school,” Weintraub explained.
The government's plan also includes freezing 3,500 post-graduate scholarships across the country, which represent an investment of $12.5 million, Al Jazeera reported.
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro confirmed that 41% of its budget was cut.
"This protest is against what is happening at MEC (Ministerio de Educacao)," president of the Federation of Teachers of Sao Paulo (FEPESP), Celso Napolitano, said. "The cuts in federal universities mean a death strike in the scientific production in Brazil."
The demonstrations - which was roused by the National Student Union - mark the largest such anti-government gathering since the right-wing president’s administration took office.
Protests took place in 27 cities across the country and also online with the hashtag "education tsunami."