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  • Demonstrators protest public transit fare hikes in Sao Paulo on Jan. 12, 2016.

    Demonstrators protest public transit fare hikes in Sao Paulo on Jan. 12, 2016. | Photo: EFE

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Recife has joined the larger cities Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in protesting increases in public transportation fares, while demanding improved services.

Protests in Brazil over the cost of public transit spread to the coastal city of Recife Friday as demonstrators took to the streets to say no to fare hikes, local media reported.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in the center of Brazil’s fifth largest city to demand free transit passes instead of fare hikes from 3.50 reais (US$0.87) to 3.80 reais (US$0.95), which demonstrators have said is an unjustified increase given the state of public transit services.

“We want a free pass for all students,” Jairo Marques, president of the Metropolitan Secondary Students’ Union, told local media outlet LeiaJa, adding that corporations are to blame for the current economic crisis and the people should not have to pay. “We need free passes because we are students and workers.”

The latest round of protests in Recife follow larger actions in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro over the past week that turned violent when police unleashed tear gas and stun grenades to break up peaceful protests.

Authorities in Sao Paulo signaled earlier this week that security forces would continue to crack down on transit fare protests. Despite the warning, protesters carried out two simultaneous actions in Sao Paulo Thursday to ramp up protest against the fare hikes.

The wave of protests is reminiscent of massive public transit demonstrations that rocked Brazil over two years ago in the lead-up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup when Brazil increased public spending on hosting the event.

IN DEPTH: Understanding Brazil's Political Crisis

In June 2013, simultaneous demonstrations were held in at least 80 cities, with a total turnout that may have been close to 2 million. An estimated 110,000 marched in Sao Paulo, 80,000 in Manaus, 50,000 in Recife, and 20,000 in Belo Horizonte and Salvador.

The move to increase transit fares also comes as Brazil is already facing an inflation rate of more than 10 percent.

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