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  • Students protest against President Jair Bolsonaro's policies at the legislative Assembly in Curitiba, Brazil, May 28, 2019. The sign reads,

    Students protest against President Jair Bolsonaro's policies at the legislative Assembly in Curitiba, Brazil, May 28, 2019. The sign reads, "They will not shut us up and We will not accept that they censure education." | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 May 2019

The Brazilians are defending their rights as the Education Minister strives to disqualify social discontent.

Brazil is holding a new, nationwide strike Thursday as thousands of workers, teachers and students take to the streets to protests against President Jair Bolsonaro's policies related to social security privatization and budget cuts to universities and scientific research institutes.

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Convened by the National Union of Students (UNE) and backed by unions and social movements, the May 30 demonstration (30M) is expected to surpass the millions of people who took part in country's massive May 15 work stoppage.

"What happened May 15 was historic and people need to repeat such a feat ... We need to go to the streets and call everyone to defend education," Marianna Dias, the UNE president said and commented that "education is the most powerful weapon against Bolsonaro's administration because education makes people free."

She also explained that universities have been spaces of democracy, freedom and resistance even in the worst moments of Brazil's long dictatorship, which is part of the reason the current head of state is so fearful of education.

Dias added that Brazilian Education Minister Abraham Weintraub refused to listen to students who disagreed with the government's decision to cut scholarship and research funding, trying to have them forcibly removed them from a public hearing on these issues held at Congress on Wednesday.

"In the city of Simao Dias, state of Sergipe, high school students have already started their day fighting! May 30 for education. Brazil for education."

On Wednesday, in a new attempt to diminish the degree of student discontent, Weintraub blamed teachers for influencing students to protest.

"Teachers are compelling" students to take to the streets, an offensive statement which reignited flames of indignation among Brazilians who were outraged when Bolsonaro called students “useful idiots, dolts, who are being used as a mass-of-maneuver” during the May 15 demonstrations.

Not all parts of Brazil's government are with the president. The Rio Grande do Norte Federal Public Ministry agreed Minister Weintraub is insulting Brazilian students and teachers, prompting the state's Attorney Gen Emanuel de Melo Ferreira to initiate Wednesday a civil action for moral damages against Weintraub who, if found guilty, could pay US$1.2 million in indemnizations.

Thousands of university and secondary students managed to march towards the Ministers Square in the capital of Brasilia Thursday morning.

Recalling former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who supported education, the UNE president said that "he allowed democracy, critical reasoning and knowledge to be spread to our people. He allowed poor people to feel the pleasure of sitting on a college bench."

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