Brazil’s president is dismissing protests against his cuts to education funding, saying the student demonstrators are “useful idiots” who have “nothing in their heads”.

President Jair Bolsonaro spoke from Dallas, Texas, even as large crowds gathered in several Brazilian cities to denounce cuts that include a 30% reduction for the discretionary budget of federal universities. Scholarships for masters and doctoral students are also being suspended.

In Brasilia, thousands of protesters carried banners down the vast Esplanade of Ministers past the lower house of congress, where the education minister had been summoned to testify about the budget cuts

Students take part in a nation-wide education strike, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Federal education officials this month announced budget cuts of $1. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Students take part in a nation-wide education strike, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Federal education officials this month announced budget cuts of $1. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Federal education officials say the $1.85 billion reduction for public education is part of a wider government effort to slash spending.

A masked student takes part in a nation-wide education strike, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
A masked student takes part in a nation-wide education strike, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Masked students take part in a nation-wide education strike, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Masked students take part in a nation-wide education strike, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Demonstrators set up a barricade during nation-wide education strike, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Demonstrators set up a barricade during nation-wide education strike, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
A policeman stomps on a barricade set on fire by demonstrators taking part in a nation-wide education strike, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
A policeman stomps on a barricade set on fire by demonstrators taking part in a nation-wide education strike, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
A masked student burns a poster with a message that reads in Portuguese:
A masked student burns a poster with a message that reads in Portuguese: “Out Bolsonaro” during an education strike in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

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