A Brazilian journalist injured while reporting on violent clashes with protesters was declared brain dead on Monday, as yet another demonstration paralysed downtown Rio just four months ahead of the World Cup.
Television news cameraman Santiago Ilidio Andrade, 49, was left in a coma after being struck on the head by a flare during protests against bus fare increases last Thursday.
Rio de Janeiro’s public health office said on Monday that neurosurgeons at Souza Aguiar municipal hospital had declared the married father-of-one brain dead.
“My husband is gone. They have destroyed a solid family,” Andrade’s heartbroken wife told the Globo television channel in an interview.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she was “outraged and saddened” at news of Andrade’s death. “It is unacceptable that democratic protests are taken over by those who have no respect for human lives,” Rousseff said on Twitter.
Rousseff said Brazil’s federal police force was ready to assist the investigation into Andrade’s case if required.
Both protesters implicated in the flare strike have been arrested. The first, Fabio Raposo, 22, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter on Sunday after admitting he had picked up the flare and handed it to another protester who had thrown it.
“It was an act of negligence and irresponsibility,” Raposo’s lawyer Jonas Nunes Tadeu told CBN radio, but he insisted there was no intent to harm Andrade.
Although Raposo initially said he did not know the second protester, on Monday he gave the name to police, who quickly arrested him.
Monday’s announcement prompted a homage from some 30 fellow journalists, who gathered around the spot where Andrade was struck - where a bloodstain marks the pavement - in a silent circle, with their video and still cameras resting on the ground beside them.
Around 1,000 demonstrators also gathered on Monday -- many from the Black Bloc anarchist group, masked and dressed in black -- for a protest that was so far peaceful, with police and helicopters watching over.
Last week’s clashes echoed the massive street protests which paralyzed Brazil during the FIFA Confederations Cup last June, which left at least five people dead. Five others were injured in last week’s protests, which began as a peaceful demonstration but exploded into violence, with around 1,000 people battling riot police who fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
There is widespread anger in Brazil over the billions of dollars of public money spent on preparations for the World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics at a time when the country is grappling with poor infrastructure and public services.
The latest violence has renewed concerns about security for the World Cup, which protesters have vowed to target once more.
The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism said on Monday that 117 journalists had been injured since the outbreak of violent social unrest during last year’s Confederations Cup.
The injuries of 75 of them resulted from the actions of Brazil’s riot police, which has been criticised for heavy-handed tactics. Last year’s protests were triggered after increases in public transport fares, which were eventually suspended in the bigger cities such as Rio and Sao Paulo.
After a brief lull in November, protests have increased in frequency this year, led by the anarchist Black Bloc. Although none of the protests have been on the same scale as last year’s demonstrations, they have consistently ended in violent clashes with police.
The Black Bloc said in a post on its Facebook page on Monday that it ”strongly deplored” the death of Andrade, saying the cameraman had been injured in a “fight for a better country”.