Brazil burns with bus fares double NYC

Joshua Goodman – Bloomberg, 06/25/2013

Residents of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro devote a bigger share of their paychecks to mass transit than counterparts around the world even after winning a fight to revoke a 9-cent increase in bus fares.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows residents of Brazil’s two biggest cities must work an average 10 minutes to pay for a bus ticket, more than twice the time needed in Paris or New York. The comparison is based on the latest report by UBS AG on purchasing power in 72 cities. In Beijing and Mumbai, less than four minutes of work buys a ticket.

“It ends up weighing on people’s budgets,” said Samy Dana, a professor at Getulio Vargas Foundation’s business school in Sao Paulo, who first noted the disparity using the UBS data. “Price is only half of the picture. If you look at the quality of public transport, the situation is even worse.”

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Taking to the streets

The Economist, 06/22/2013

WITH stunning speed, protests that started on June 6th in São Paulo over a 20-centavo (nine-cent) rise in bus fares have escalated into the biggest nationwide street demonstrations Brazil has seen since 1992. Then, citizens took to the streets to demand the impeachment of a president on corruption charges. What they want this time is less clear. The first protests were dismissed by paulistanos unsympathetic to the organisers’ demand for universal free bus travel (a policy that would cost the city 6 billion reais a year, the mayor, Fernando Haddad, pointed out). Commuters were unimpressed when the protests made their hellish journeys even worse, and outraged by the vandalism committed by a hard core. Conservative newspapers called for a crackdown.

All that changed on June 13th when ill-trained, brutal police turned a mostly peaceful march into a terrifying rout. Officers with their name tags removed fired stun grenades and rubber bullets at fleeing protesters and bystanders, and hunted stragglers through the streets. Motorists trapped in the mayhem were hit with tear gas. Demonstrators caught carrying vinegar (which lessens the effect of the gas) were arrested. Several journalists were injured, two shot in the face at close range with rubber bullets. One is likely to lose sight in an eye. The following day’s editorials took a markedly different tone.

By June 17th what has been dubbed the “V for Vinegar” movement or “Salad Revolution” had spread to a dozen state capitals as well as the federal capital, Brasília. An estimated 250,000 took to the streets across the country the following nights. There were many more women, families and middle-aged folk than at the initial protests. The demands had also grown more varied: banners condemned corruption, rising prices, poor schools and hospitals, and the cost of next year’s football World Cup, for which Brazil will spend 7 billion reais on stadiums alone—three times the cost of South Africa’s 2010 World Cup. “First-world stadiums, third-world schools and hospitals”, ran one placard.

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Brazil’s president grasps for answer to protests, violence

Brian Winter – Reuters, 06/21/2013

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will hold an emergency meeting of top aides on Friday to figure out how to respond to massive protests that brought 1 million people into the streets and also resulted in widespread vandalism and injuries.

Demonstrations across the country on Thursday night were the biggest yet by a movement that came from seemingly nowhere over the past week, and has rallied Brazilians angry about a range of issues from corruption and poor public transportation to billions of dollars being spent to host the soccer World Cup next year.

While the protests are not targeted at Rousseff herself – or any specific politician – the left-leaning leader is under huge pressure as marches have become increasingly violent and also contributed to a recent selloff in Brazil’s financial markets.

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Dissatisfaction in Brazil, depsite positive views of the economy

Juliana Menasce Horowitz – Pew Research Center, 06/21/2013

Over the last week, more than 200,000 Brazilians have taken to streets of the country’s largest cities to protest what they see as gross injustices in their country. The demonstrations, which started over a bus-fare increase in the city of São Paulo, have brought together people from across the political spectrum who want the government to spend less money on stadiums for the 2014 World Cup and more on improving public services, including schools, hospitals and public transportation.

The protesters have also called for the defeat of a proposed constitutional amendment that would take away the investigative powers of public prosecutors, who have investigated corruption cases against public officials; control of inflation, which has pushed up the price of food and housing; and the ouster of Marco Feliciano, a preacher who was recently named chairman of the congressional Commission on Human Rights and Minorities despite declarations that many see as racist and homophobic, among other demands for political and social change.

The breadth of the demands made by Brazilian demonstrators is reflected in the latest Pew Research Center poll of Brazil, which finds that 55% of Brazilians are dissatisfied with the way things are going in their country, even as 59% give national economic conditions a positive rating and 74% say their personal financial situation is good, (although at least 70% see rising prices, lack of job opportunities, the gap between the rich and the poor, and public debt as very big problems in Brazil).

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Sweeping protests in Brazil pull in an array of grievances

Simon Romero & William Neuman – The New York Times, 06/21/2013

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Just a few weeks ago, Mayara Vivian felt pretty good when a few hundred people showed up for a protest she helped organize to deride the government over a proposed bus fare increase. She had been trying to prod Brazilians into the streets since 2005, when she was only 15, and by now she thought she knew what to expect.

But when tens of thousands of protesters thronged the streets this week, rattling cities across the country in a reckoning this nation had not experienced in decades, she was dumbfounded, at a loss to explain how it could have happened.

“One hundred thousand people, we never would have thought it,” said Ms. Vivian, one of the founders of the Free Fare Movement, which helped start the protests engulfing Brazil. “It’s like the taking of the Bastille.”

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Brazil braces for continued protests nationwide

Paula Prada – Reuters, 06/20/2013

Protesters are expected to flood more than 100 Brazilian cities and surround two international soccer matches later on Thursday, as lower transport fares and promises of better public services fail to stem the tide of discontent in Latin America’s biggest country.

After more than a week of the largest protests here in over two decades, demonstrators show no signs of letting up. Though the transport fare hikes that sparked the unrest were rescinded in Brazil’s two biggest cities on Wednesday, demonstrators by the hundreds of thousands promised to take to the streets in locales as diverse as the Amazon capital of Manaus to the prosperous southern city of Florianopolis.

The persistence of the protests reflects what has become a generalized host of complaints about high taxes, inflation, corruption and poor public services, from hospitals and schools to roads and police forces. Using an ongoing international soccer tournament as a backdrop, they are also denouncing the more than $26 billion of public money that will be spent on the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, two events meant to showcase a modern, developed Brazil.

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I was Brazil woman pepper-sprayed in face, says protest campaigner

Matt Sandy – The Independent, 06/20/2013

She became the face of the protests sweeping Brazil. A young woman with a polka-dotted bag who was pepper-sprayed at close range by a policeman in a crash helmet on a Rio de Janeiro street.

Now a woman has come forward to say it was her in the picture, reveal her ordeal at the hands of the police after being arrested – and urge her fellow citizens to continue to take to the streets to protest.

Liv Nicolsky Lagerblad de Oliveira, 23, says she faced “psychological torture” from the military police after being arrested and was only released after paying a fine of 2000 reals (£579).

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