Brazil’s Nationwide Protest Movement Enters Third Week
Waves of protests continue in Brazil as demonstrators demand government take decisive action to address their demands
NERITA OEIRAS, TRNN PRODUCER: This has been a busy week in Brazil, but not the way it was expected to be. Massive demonstrations displaced the FIFA Confederations Cup as the center of attention not only inside the country but around the world.
For the first time in 20 years, manifestations rose all over the country, with population taking the streets in the millions to manifest its discontent with the administrations of public resources. Last Friday, President Dilma Roussef gave a public speech where she mentioned topics like health and corruption. Her declarations were considered vague by the population that demand a more decisive plan and continued demonstrating over the weekend all around Brazil.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): What Is happening is a general dissatisfaction against the cost of life, corruption, the lack of education, abandoned public and private health care. There are several dissatisfactions summing up, and this is generating a movement that is already spreading throughout the nation, and we don’t know what the consequences of all this can be.
OEIRAS: It all started with the reissue of public transportations fares in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Porto Alegre. After the protests that followed, authorities rescinded the bus fare hike. However, the original demand of lower the bus fares gave place to demands for more investments in education, health, and a claim for mores transparency on public spending.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The fight need to be focused, from my point of view, on the right for the city, which is a fundamental right for those who fight inside the town, inside the public space. So it starts with transportation, but is also about decisions regarding every urban policy inside the city.
OEIRAS: Thursday the 20th was the most intense day of demonstrations in Brazil. Only in Rio de Janeiro, officially more than 300,000 people marched downtown. It ended if confrontations and retaliation by police force, who used rubber shots and tear gas.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): From the question Until where will the city support excesses by security forces? people will start building a panorama and realize that as social actors inside the historical process, they can’t any longer put up with it and hold an historical silence. We have a background of dictatorships in Latin America. Brazil needs to create new strategic solutions, and the scenario being shown during these days is only a sample that the population and the crowd can create their own strategic solutions.
OEIRAS: Dilma Rouseff saw her popularity decrease by 8 percent in June alone. Partido dos Trabalhores, or PT, the Brazilian Workers’ Party, in the presidency since 2003, sees itself in the middle of a crossroad. The party, funded in 1980, is one of the most significant leftist movements in Latin America. In 2002, Lula was elected, followed by Dilma in 2010.
On Friday and Saturday on Rio de Janeiro, The Real News spoke with people in the demonstrations about the political aspect of this fight:
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The Brazilian left, left in a sense of being aligned with socialism and communism, it doesn’t exist anymore. Who took the power was the PT, and that was a hope of change without an ideology, and the party ended up transforming itself in a big spree. So I don’t know if nowadays we have this left or right inclination. I believe that what is fundamental is the general and huge dissatisfaction.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Yes, we are from the left, but in a literal sense. We want the common welfare, for everybody. It is not about political parties. Parties are not left or right. Left or right are ideas. We have left-wing ideals, an ideal where social welfare is primary to financial monopoly.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We are not idiots. We are here complaining to Sergio Cabral because it is symbolic, but who can make those changes happen are city counselors, congressmen, senators. We can count on one hand who is really left-winged here. PT assumed the government as a left party, but when people from the real left saw what PT became, they funded PSOL. Sincerely, there are no representatives of the left movement.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): What Brazil is showing during the last days is plurality and diversity of opinions. So it would be misleading to classify who is left or right here. What needs to be defined is the general dissatisfaction of the Brazilian people.
OEIRAS: Despite its popular measures and social welfare programs, like Bolsa Familia, which have reduced poverty by 27 percent, PT has seen its name frequently involved in national scandals. The largest scandal involving PT is is Mensalão, a scheme of public resources detour to fund the purchase of political support.
Under Mensalão, PT saw the names of more than 20 of its members involved, including federal congressmen and Ministro Chefe da Casa Civil José Dirceu and PT’s president, Jose Genoino. In 2012, Brazil’s Supreme Court judged 38 criminal defendant, condemning 25 of them, including Dirceu and Genoino, who were sentenced to ten and six years respectivly. Neither has yet to serve time.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We are a peoples’ movement. Here, there is no right, no left. Here is the people, and on the other side a corrupt government. We fight against corruption, no matter if it’s inside left or right parties.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): This new model is not partisan. We don’t represent any party. We are simply against corruption, against a political class that tricks and steal from people. We are against everything that is against people. All we want is to live peacefully, have our rights respected. We want to live with a decent wage without being mistreated in our jobs. It’s simply like that. It is a right that every Brazilian citizen should have without needing to protest, simple as that.
OEIRAS: Summing up to the reasons of popular dissatisfaction is the overbudgeting in the construction of stadiums and other infrastructures needed to host the World Cup. The event costs approximately $12 billion, 85 percent financed by federal government, with a minimum investment of the private sector that will directly benefit from the administrations of those infrastructures.
Brazil’s World Cup will cost nearly as almost as much the last two Worlds Cups combined, where Germany spent $6 billion and South Africa $8 billion dollars.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I pay 4 percent of my car, motorcycle for the state. And just right over there, see, they have holes on the street. So why does money go through? If everybody here pay 4 percent of their car, why the streets are like that? So that’s what, that’s what we need, you know, just to go and to be clear and people stop this, you know, because they do whatever they do and nobody says anything and people [incompr.] World Cup. I’m sorry, but eff the World Cup, you know. Now it’s way bigger than that.
OEIRAS: Soccer celebrities gave public speeches during the last week, including Ronaldo, twice world champion, and Pelé, historical idol of Brazilian torcida, who declared: “lets forget about this mess and let’s think that the Brazilian Seleção is our country”.
People ion the street answered with massive protests next to stadiums when the Confederations Cups were held in the country this month. Never before the Seleção have been second in national media and people’s interests.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Now we are living a global crisis. We saw Turkey, where similar things happened. We saw it in European countries because of the economic crisis. Egypt’s Spring. Syria. Those are global dissatisfactions with a model that needs to come to an end. This shaking hands between oppressive governments and huge capitalist corporations, those who own the power, this needs to end.
OEIRAS: For the next week, the nation expects a new wave of protests, this time smaller in quantity of people but geographically even more spread, following that trend we saw this Saturday, where in Rio de Janeiro, there were marches in approximately ten neighborhoods.
Beyond protesting, population is worried about creating a participatory democratic model, and public assemblies are being called for every day next week, with the discussion items in the citizens agenda being decided by polling in forums all over the internet.
We are left to wonder if protest will force President Dilma Rousseff to go beyond rhetoric and take decisive actions against members of her own party who are accused of corruption, which is one of the main demands of the protestors in the streets.
Reporting from Rio de Janeiro for The Real News, this is Nerita Oeiras.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.