RIO DE JANEIRO – Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of this metropolis Thursday to protest a bill calling for oil royalties to be evenly shared among all of Brazil’s states.
Marching under the banner “Against Injustice, In Rio’s Defense,” thousands of festive protesters made their way along the downtown Avenida Rio Branco.
Brazil’s Senate approved the bill last month and it now must be analyzed by a special committee before being voted on by the full lower house.
According to media estimates, Rio de Janeiro, the country’s largest oil-producing state, would lose an estimated 125 billion reais ($69 billion) in revenue over the next nine years if the controversial bill becomes law.
“We can’t remain indifferent. This is a demonstration against a confiscation of Rio’s wealth and has nothing to do with political parties,” the president of the Federation of Industries of Rio de Janeiro State, Eduardo Eugenio, said.
The plan to more broadly distribute oil royalties also could adversely affect the producer states of Espirito Santo, Piaui, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceara, Maranhao, Para and Amapa.
Rio state Gov. Sergio Cabral said the proposed legislation would infringe upon Rio de Janeiro city’s ability to bear the costs of hosting the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
Thousands of public employees took part in Thursday’s rally after being given permission to leave work early, while state authorities chartered dozens of buses that transported thousands of people to Rio from other municipalities.
All those wanting to go downtown for the march also were allowed to ride for free on the Rio metro.
Cabral had said in recent days that about 100,000 people were expected to turn out for the protest but organizers did not indicate Thursday how many participated.
The fierce debate over how to distribute oil wealth has arisen after the discovery of massive offshore deposits in recent years.
Those ultra-deep reserves are located in the so-called “pre-salt” region off the coasts of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro states, Brazil’s two wealthiest by gross domestic product. EFE