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Last Updated: 06/21/2013
What is happening in Brazil?
Paulo Guerra

Paulo Guerra sent us this commentary from the protests in Brazil.

All my friends in other countries ask me what is happening in Brazil, but should we really see this as a Brazilian problem? What the Brazilians are doing right now is questioning its priorities. Our government has spent US$ 15 billion to host the World Cup. But only 2 years ago, UK spent US$ 8 billion in the Olympic Games, 4 years ago South Africa spent US$ 8 billions, and 8 years ago Germany spent US$ 6 billions. In times of global economic crisis, climate changes, and fighting against poverty, should so much money be invested in an event?

Back to Brazil, while so much money is being used to build stadiums, public needs were neglected: transport, education, health, security. All those systems are in terrible conditions. And the list does not stop here: the political, electoral, penitentiary, penal and taxing systems are not able to answer the society demands.

For 12 years, Brazilians were kept quiet by income redistribution policies. However, corruption and increasing prices inflation shown to the people that Brazil was going out the sustainable development trail.

The protests exploded when Rio de Janeiro e São Paulo, two of the states that have spent more money to build stadiums, announced an increment in the price of public transportation. People went to the street to protest against the higher fees, but the Police reacted in a truculent way, trying to stop the protests before the beginning of the Confederations Cup.

The Police’s strategy failed and the protests spread, now protesting also against the Police truculence. Suddenly, more than 1 million were in the streets protesting against all the sort of things you can imagine. President Dilma Roussef was booed during the opening ceremony of the Confederations Cup. Senate’s president, Renan Calheiros, and the president of the Human Rights Commission, Marcos Feliciano, are being pressed to renounce their positions. The Supreme Court is being pressed to arrest three congressmen and put them on trial for corruption.

The lack of legitimate leaders has opened a space for non-partisan groups, mainly organized by social networks, drawing attention to the importance of electoral and political reforms. The problem of this auto-leading group is that it is impossible to determine who is leading the movement right now. And the goals of the movement are blurred, leading people to question its objectives.

The movement is mostly peaceful, however there are some groups using violence to express its disgust. As the movement does not have a formal leader, the process to identify those groups is not easy. The nonviolent adepts are using strategies like sit-ins, chants, and the publication of vandals’ photos on the web to avoid violence and keep the movement peaceful. The Police, whose initial behavior was very truculent, are more patient now.

The political class has disappeared, and their reluctance to make public appearances and speeches have made the movement grow even more. The Mayor and the Governor of São Paulo announced reduction in the transport tickets’ price. But the tone used in the speeches lighted the wrath of the manifestations, and the protests have continued. The leaders of the Congress postponed the voting of the 37th Constitutional Amendment, giving the movement another victory, but, once again, the way how things were done fueled people’s indignation.

In conclusion, what we see in Brazil right now is a people full of courage questioning priorities, fighting for a different path to development and using their time to build a more equal country based in concrete democracy. It is important to highlight that the protests, even the violent ones, are not threatening or putting foreigners into danger. Brazil remains a very hospitable and friendly country.

Paulo Guerra is public administrator with a passion for understanding collective needs and developing innovative solutions. He is working on an MA in Sustainable Peace in the Contemporary World.