By Dorian Griscom:
Hundreds of thousands protest throughout Brazil
19 June 2013
On Monday, June 17 Brazil saw its largest protests in at least 20 years. Hundreds of thousands marched in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia, the country’s leading cities, while smaller demonstrations occurred in other cities around the country.
Estimates of the numbers who took to the streets nationwide ranged as high as nearly 1 million. In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and commercial capital, an estimated 250,000 demonstrated, and in Rio de Janeiro another 150,000 filled Avenida Rio Branco and much of the city’s downtown. In the capital of Brasilia, some 5,000 youth occupied the lobby of the National Congress, while hundreds of others climbed onto the building’s roof. There were also protests in Fortaleza, Vitoria, Maceio, Belem, Salvador, Curitiba, Porto Alegre and Recife.
Monday’s mass protests broadened and deepened a wave of smaller protests that were initially launched in response to transit fare hikes implemented by various city governments across the country, most notably in São Paulo.
These first demonstrations were staged in reaction to seemingly small price increases for use of public transportation, averaging between 5 and 10 cents (in US dollars) per ticket.
Much as in the events surrounding the protests in Turkey’s Taksim square, the brutal repression unleashed against these initial demonstrators by Brazil’s military police helped trigger nationwide anger. As a result the greatest number took to the streets since at least the 1992 demonstrations demanding the impeachment of then-President Fernando Collor de Mello and possibly since the 1984 mass movement demanding direct elections at the end of the military dictatorship.
The protests on Monday expressed far more general grievances, decrying rampant government corruption, lack of adequate basic services, widespread poverty and the squandering of billions in state funds on the construction of lavish stadiums for the Confederations Cup and World Cup soccer tournaments instead of investing in education and healthcare. At the heart of these grievances lies the immense gulf between the wealthy ruling class and the working population in this country of 200 million, which is one of the most socially polarized in the world.
Slogans in Monday’s protests expressed the profound divide which exists between the Brazilian working class and the political representatives of its corrupt ruling elite. One sign read, “You do not represent me.” Another much publicized slogan said: “We don’t need the world cup. We need money for hospitals and education.”
Brazil’s Military Police brutally cracked down on the first protests in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, firing rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators. Hundreds were arrested in last week’s demonstrations and at least 100 injured.
There were also violent police attacks on journalists in São Paulo. At least 15 journalists were injured by rubber bullets, police batons, tear gas and pepper spray over the weekend. They charged that they had been deliberately targeted by the Military Police. One journalist was reportedly hit by a police car, and another was blinded in one eye by a rubber bullet.
After it became clear that the police violence was helping fuel the growth of the protest movement, the police in both cities attempted a more hands-off approach to Monday’s mass demonstrations. Demonstrators took up the chant, “What a coincidence, no police, no violence.”
In Belo Horizonte, however, police Monday formed a blockade on a road leading to the Mineirão soccer stadium, where a match was in progress between Tahiti and Nigeria. Despite a pledge in advance not to use violence, the police used teargas and rubber bullets when protesters crossed the blockade. Before the police crackdown, the demonstration had gone on for five hours with no violence on the part of protesters. …
Initially the protests were called by the Movement for Free Fares, which advocates providing public transportation as a free public service and had organized demonstrations over the past several years with little public turnout. This year, however, intersecting with fare hikes and mounting discontent, it erupted into a massive spontaneous movement.
See also here.
Eager to ease tensions and prevent future protests, officials in at least five cities, including important state capitals such as Porto Alegre and Recife, announced plans on Tuesday to lower bus fares: here.
Canada: Hundreds of Brazilians took to the street in Vancouver in a show of solidarity with a wave of protests in Brazil against the shoddy state of public transit, schools and other public services in the booming South American giant: here.
- Protesters back in streets of Brazilian cities (nbcsports.msnbc.com)
- Biggest protests in 20 years sweep Brazil – Reuters (reuters.com)
- 12 Pictures Showing You Some of the Biggest Protests in Brazil in Almost 30 Years | Video | TheBlaze.com (grindaline.wordpress.com)