Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said Tuesday "the voice of the street must be heard" and that large crowds of protesters demanding better public services have "sent a direct message" to the nation's leaders.

Despite isolated episodes of violence during the demonstrations, which on Monday brought some 250,000 people out on the streets of dozens of cities, Rousseff said the rallies "show the value of democracy."

In her first public statements on protests that have spread nationwide over the past 10 days, the head of state denounced the instances of violence but said most of the demonstrations have unfolded peacefully.

She said it was positive to see "so many young people and adults, grandchildren, parents and grandparents, all with the Brazilian flag, singing the national anthem and calling for a better country."

Demands for full rights of "citizenship, better schools and hospitals, quality, fairly priced public transportation, for the right to a say in governments' decisions, in repudiation of corruption and the diversion of public funds, are evidence of the intrinsic value of democracy," the president said.

"My generation knows how much it cost to get here," said Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who took up arms against the 1964-1985 military regime and endured imprisonment and torture.

Speaking during a public ceremony at the presidential palace, Rousseff stressed her "commitment to social transformation" and noted that under her government and that of her predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former Marxist labor leader-turned-centrist, some 40 million people have been lifted out of poverty over the past decade.

She said "the demands change as the country changes," adding that socioeconomic progress has spawned "citizens who want more and have the right to more." EFE