The latest on Brazilian protests

São Paulo

São Paulo (Photo credit: Jeff Belmonte)

1) Public transportation fare in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre are not going to raise. Fernando Haddad, mayor of São Paulo, and Geraldo Alckmin, governor of São Paulo State, addressed the public together to break the news on wednesday, June 19th. But they did mention that they couldn’t count on federal funding, so they would have to relocate some investments, which could potentially affect the population in other public services, such as education or healthcare. The Passe Livre movement celebrated the decision, it was a big victory for them. The one’s that are concerned with the readjustments on the investments claim that both city and state should open their accounts and show the public where are they taking the money from to pay for the debt the decision will generate, some say they should negotiate with bus companies so they would be responsible by the onus. The main argument is that bus companies are a big mafia, they manipulate their books to get more money from the government and, at the same time, make huge campaign contributions for politicians. To sum it up, the good victory generates bigger potential problems and social participation is now, maybe more than ever, key to maintain the transparency on governmental investments. Let’s hope the media does a better job informing the people about what goes on behind the curtains.

sao paulo skyline

sao paulo skyline (Photo credit: Fernando Stankuns)

2) Since there were all kinds of people taking the streets, including those who were protesting against corruption, social movements are trying to organize themselves and figure out the next step. What should be the next claim? Are they going to march against the evangelist pastor, Marco Feliciano, who took over the Human Rights Commission of the House of Representatives (or Chamber of Deputies) and decided to start a witch hunt against gays? Or are they going to protest the proposal of PEC 37, an  addition to the Brazilian Constitution that would take away from Public Ministery the prerogative to investigate criminal activities, leaving this task for Federal and Civil Police? Some people argue that this would make corruption investigations even harder, but I have to say I have no opinion on the matter since I haven’t read much about it yet.

3) Protests yesterday were nothing like the ones we saw before. Supposedly a celebration of the back down on bus fare raise, it became a violent ideological fight. It is true that PT, the workers party (party of former president Lula and president Dilma Roussef) scheduled their own protest on Avenida Paulista in São Paulo to happen yesterday, same day that Passe Livre movement was celebrating their political victory, with the naive perception they would show people they were by their side. That was taken as a provocation by some of the conservatives, especially because in the last protests they were emphasizing the non-partidarism and, since corruption was one of the issues on the table, it would be odd sharing the streets with the party responsible for the latest big scandal in Brazilian politics, what we call the mensalão. Basically, a scheme for the government to buy deputies and senators votes so they would support the president (Lula, at the time) and his party, the PT. Conservatives attacked the liberals, the participants of social movements and other left wing representatives, arguing they had no place in the streets. Many were hurt, flags were burned. Journalists on main stream media were still celebrating the change on Brazilian politics, portraying the movement as an important step on our democracy, while the left started to complain the conservatives attack was actually an assault on democracy and a stir in the course of events they would not support.

Let’s wait for what comes up next, because the way it is going nothing is clear yet. While conservatives still fight corruption and keep asking for Dilma’s impeachment, latest polls show she would be reelected next year, when president elections take place, with 53% of votes. Now that the bus fare fight is won in some of Brazil’s biggest cities, the joy of seeing people on the streets might be shadowed by the worries of the consequences of government decisions. It will be interesting to see what other causes will be discussed and protested for. The dissatisfaction that consumed the protesters is still there, and their big causes (like, corruption) are still there, but if the people don’t start organizing an agenda, making real propositions, talking about real actions (and not just yell “end corruption now”), it will be hard to see the benefits of it all.

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