June 19, 2013
Tim Padgett – Time Magazine, 06/19/2013
It’s a delusion harbored by the ruling classes the world over, but especially in Latin America. It’s the belief that even if people get richer, they don’t get smarter. Ask Chile’s Carménère-sipping elites where that clueless thinking got them. Ask them to explain why the country with the region’s highest per capita GDP and one of its stronger middle classes — the Latin American nation most likely to achieve developed status first — has been the scene of some of the region’s loudest street protests in recent years.
Call it the ire of expectations. Chile’s stellar economic performance has indeed raised incomes, but it’s also raised awareness about lingering inequality, big business abuses, deficient education — all the flaws that keep even quasi-developed societies from becoming genuinely developed, and which leaders like Chile’s think they can keep putting off as long as the masses can buy new cars. What they find out instead is that heightened public consumerism often means a heightened public expectation that feckless and negligent establishments will finally get their acts together. When they don’t, folks get ticked off.
That ire of expectations has now caught up with Latin America’s largest country and economy, Brazil. Angry, sometimes violent demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of citizens have erupted this week from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in the south to Salvador and Recife in the north — and in the central capital, Brasília, where some 200 protesters even mounted the roof of Oscar Niemeyer’s famous Congress building.
June 19, 2013
William Waack – The American Interest, 06/19/2013
For the past few days, thousands of angry Brazilians have been flowing out into the streets of major cities in protest, paralyzing city centers, burning vehicles, looting and vandalizing stores, even attempting to storm government buildings in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Brasilia.
It’s quite frightening to watch so many people here in Brazil protesting against everything—i.e., against nothing. Truth be told, there is a long list of possible complaints, each of which is in itself worth taking to the streets. There’s the incompetent government, which is incapable of managing public investments or spending public funds wisely. Then there are Brazil’s crime rates, among the worst in the world. And then there are the abuses committed with public money—and I’m not even talking about corruption as such. Public services in disarray? Bad schools? Wasting money on subsided interest rates for the eternal friends of the government? Creating welfare programs that only make their beneficiaries even more dependent on government handouts? Big construction projects that go nowhere and cost twice what they were supposed to? You name it; we’ve got it. And it’s worth getting upset about.
Yet the current protests originally started as a challenge to rising prices for public transportation in some of Brazil’s biggest cities: a nine-cent rise in bus fares. This is actually an old and very familiar cause: a demand for free rides on public buses, subways and trains. Also familiar, though hardly universal, are calls for no private enterprises—and no profits. Who will pay for services, then? Romantic revolutionaries don’t have to answer that question. They trade in political mysticism, always fairly popular in Brazil.
June 19, 2013
Raymond Colitt & Blake Schmidt – Bloomberg, 06/19/2013
Brazil is calling in additional national guard troops to boost security for an international soccer tournament after two weeks of protests against inflation and corruption rocked city centers across the country.
The troops will be deployed to Salvador, Belo Horizonte, and Brasilia to reinforce security at Confederations Cup games, the Justice Ministry said in a press release on its website. Local authorities requested extra troops after more than 200,000 people demonstrated in 12 cities on Monday, and protesters gathered today at the venue of a match between Brazil and Mexico in the north-eastern city of Fortaleza.
Following a sixth night of protests that included a 50,000-strong march on city hall in Sao Paulo, hundreds of demonstrators today occupied and burnt tires on the Anchieta highway in Sao Bernardo, a working-class suburb. In Brasilia, protesters demanding improved public transport blocked a motorway, causing traffic to back up for miles.
June 19, 2013
Gabrielle Coppola – Bloomberg, 06/17/2013
The nine-cent increase in bus fares in Sao Paulo is coming to symbolize everything that’s wrong withLatin America’s largest economy — for protesters and bondholders alike.
About 50,000 people massed throughout Latin America’s largest city last night as a rally against a 20-centavo rise in fares two weeks ago erupted into demonstrations against everything from rising prices to corruption and excessive spending. The unrest has deepened a rout in Brazil’s local bonds, which fell 7.4 percent in dollars in the past month as the real sank and the central bank raised interest rates.
After a decade that saw the nation win its first investment grade and lift 40 million people out of poverty, Brazilians are protesting policies of President Dilma Rousseff and Finance Minister Guido Mantega that have fueled inflation and boosted debt while failing to spur an economy hobbled by its slowest stretch of growth in a decade. Brazil’s creditworthiness based on swaps is eroding at the fastest pace among major emerging markets as Standard & Poor’s this month cut its rating outlook, citing a sluggish economy and a loss of investor credibility.
June 19, 2013
SÃO PAULO—A day after the biggest demonstrations in decades gripped Brazil, this South American nation awoke to a shifting political landscape, with protest leaders seeking to turn Monday’s venting of national frustration into a long-term movement, and a wary political class searching for footing in a country that has voiced a powerful call for change.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla and Brazil’s first female president, sought to empathize with the protest movement, declaring that she, too, is an agent of change seeking to correct many of the long-standing injustices protesters criticize.
“Brazil awoke today stronger, the greatness of the demonstrations yesterday proves the importance of democracy,” Ms. Rousseff said in Brasilia, where on Monday hundreds of protesters swarmed the roof of the modernist Congress building. “Those who went to the streets gave a message that they want more citizenship, better schools, better hospitals, more participation. It was a repudiation of corruption, and careless use of government money.”
June 19, 2013
Bradley Brooks – The Associated Press, 06/19/2013
SAO PAULO, Brazil – Tens of thousands of Brazilians flooded the streets of the country’s biggest city Tuesday in a widening protest against a slew of problems from bus fares to government corruption.
More than 50,000 people massed in front of the city’s main cathedral. While mostly peaceful, the demonstration followed the rhythm of protests that drew 240,000 people across Brazil the previous night, with small bands of radicals splitting off to fight with police and break into stores.
Mass protests have been mushrooming across Brazil since demonstrations called last week by a group angry over the high cost of a woeful public transport system and a recent 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares in Sao Paulo, Rio and elsewhere.
June 19, 2013
Simon Romero – The New York Times, 06/19/2013
SÃO PAULO, Brazil — A wave of new protests swept through areas of São Paulo, the country’s largest city, early on Wednesday as groups of demonstrators shut roads leading into the city, snarling traffic and increasing pressure on political leaders.
Shaken by the biggest challenge to their authority in years, Brazil’s leaders made conciliatory gestures on Tuesday to try to defuse the protests engulfing the nation’s cities. But the demonstrators have remained defiant, pouring into the streets by the thousands and venting their anger over political corruption, the high cost of living, and huge public spending for the World Cup and the Olympics.
Protesters denounced their leaders as dedicating excessive resources to cultivating Brazil’s global image by building stadiums for international events, when basic services like education and health care remained woefully inadequate.
June 18, 2013
Linda Yueh – BBC, 06/18/2013
Large-scale protests in Brazil have rocked one of the largest and most prominent emerging economies.
On the face of it the cause is a small rise in bus fares, which has mushroomed into a range of complaints – including corruption and a lack of investment in social services compared with spending on the World Cup and Olympics.
The real cause is likely to run much deeper.
June 17, 2013
Rachel Glickhouse – Christian Science Monitor, 06/17/2013
For Brazilians and Brazil-watchers alike, the protests this week [and last] have either inspired alarm or inspired hope. On one hand, there are the conspiracy theorists, who think the protests are engineered to impact the presidential elections and are organized by nefarious elements from the extreme left. On the other, some hope this is finally it: a real, nationwide movement to hold the government responsible for security, corruption, and public services. Could it be an end to the usual apathy and complacency, to the shrug and “vai-fazer-o-que” [what can you do] … attitude? Are people finally going to take action? Is this the start of something big?
Those in favor of the protests want them to mean something more. A photo has been circulating on Facebook of a “future” book called “The 20 Cent Revolution: The Protest that Changed Brazil.” And it’s arguably the continuing violence to repress the protests that’s serving as fuel for a movement. But they could peter out after new protests planned for [this] week, or it could become like Occupy Wall Street – where a movement gains a lot of momentum and media attention, but fizzles out and doesn’t actually accomplish much or end in many concrete results.
One challenge is identifying a common goal or theme. Though the protests originally began because of a a bus fare increase, they grew into something bigger. The problem is, though, that the messaging is not completely coherent. (On social media, for example, there are several hashtags to describe the protests, and more are emerging, too.) There are protests scheduled in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo today, as well as 27 cities worldwide over the course of the week, so it remains to be seen if a more centralized message develops.
June 14, 2013
Vincent Bevins – The Los Angeles Times, 06/13/2013
CURITIBA, Brazil — The head of a newspaper renowned for reporting on crime and corruption was shot to death Tuesday in a town outside Rio de Janeiro, the latest in a string of apparent assassinations of Brazilian journalists.
Jose Roberto Ornelas de Lemos, 45, was shot 44 times by four men while he was drinking at a neighborhood bar in the town of Nova Iguacu, witnesses said, and police believe the motive may have been to silence the reporting done by his newspaper, Hora H.
“We aren’t ruling out any hypothesis, but our main hypothesis is that Lemos may have been killed because of the combative profile of the journal he was in charge of,” said police officer Marcos Henrique de Oliveira Alves, according to the newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo.