Brazil players voice support for protesters
More than 250,000 people took to the streets of Brazil's major cities on Monday to protest against public transport price hikes and the investment of billions of dollars in major sporting events at the alleged expense of health and education.
The demonstrations are the biggest Brazil has witnessed in 20 years and come at a time when the country is desperate to prove its capacity to host events such as the Confederations Cup and next year's World Cup.
Although the protest marches have been largely peaceful, there have been several clashes between protesters and police.
Luiz condemned the violence, but said he respected the demonstrators' motives.
"I'm in favor of demonstrations without violence," he said during a press conference prior to Brazil's match against Mexico in Fortaleza.
"Citizens have a right to express their opinions and the fact they're not happy. It's a way of achieving their demands and improving the situation in the country."
Luiz left Brazil to join Portuguese giants Benfica in 2007, before signing for Chelsea four years later, but he says that matters in his homeland remain close to his heart.
"I'm Brazilian, even though I live abroad, and I always hope that Brazil will progress," he said.
"The demonstrators are fighting for health and education. We need unity. We hope that we can reach a consensus and that the future will be better. Of course, we're not happy when we see the violence."
Luiz's international teammate Dani Alves, the Barcelona full-back, also gave his backing to the protesters, who are mostly young people.
On his Instagram online photo-sharing service account, he posted a picture of a giant eye with yellow and green colors, as well as the motto of the national flag: "Order and Progress."
"Order and Progress without violence for a better Brazil, a peaceful Brazil, an educated, healthy, honest and happy Brazil," he wrote.
Hulk echoed his colleagues' comments, but rejected the notion that the demonstrations represented a protest against the World Cup.
"Today, I have a privileged social position, but I don't forget that I come from a poor background," said the Zenit Saint Petersburg forward, who grew up in the impoverished Nordeste region, where Fortaleza is located.
"They are right to protest. What they say and what they hope for is in the right direction. We have to listen to what they say.
"Brazil needs to progress in lots of areas and that's why we support them. We know they're telling the truth."
He added: "It's a triumph for Brazil to have the World Cup. There are millions of people who love football in this country."
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