Another update to the stellar coverage provided by Dish readers, this one from São Paulo:
Fortunately, even though the initial demands by the protesters have been met (the transit fare has returned to its previous level), the protests have continued. In fact, they are showing this amazing level of self-organization. Groups will march together and decide which route to follow, where to stop and chant, where to sit and block the street, etc. There will be announcements about when and where the next protest will happen, and once the end time is reached, the protest will end.
There have been protests for various things, the largest being against PEC 37, which if passed, will make it much harder to catch and convict wrong doers within the government (involved in corruption, the horrors of the military government, etc).
Among the other protests, there was a protest against the Cura Gay (Gay Cure), which if passed would allow psychiatrist/psychologists to offer treatments to those who want to cure their same-sex attraction. This has been outlawed by the government since 1999, as its fraud, the treatment does not exist, and the acceptance of it sends the wrong message. Keep in mind that a poll done asking whether Brazilians thought the law should be passed found that 49% did not believe it should be passed, 36% felt it should and 11% had no opinion. (I have been desperately searching for where I read these numbers, but haven’t been able to find the link.) Also, unlike the US, same-sex marriage is legal and is recognized by the federal government.
Of note, if the Cura Gay legislation is passed, gays may be able to retire or I suppose go on paid disability as they are “sick.” !!!! Here’s the link. The Cura Gay is being pushed by Marco Feliciano, who is a Deputado Federal (roughly equivalent to a congressman in the US) and who is involved in the Assembleia de Deus (Assembly of God), one of the powerhouse churches of Brazil’s increasingly popular evangelical movement.
After the jump is a longer update from our reader. Meanwhile, Colin Snider pushes back against critics of the protesters:
As is all too often the case amongst neoliberal analysis, they falsely equated growth to development. Sure, Brazil’s economy had grown, but it also retained one of the higher levels of income inequality in the world. … Brazilians had been told for ten years that things had improved, that Brazil had finally “arrived,” and that they were now enjoying material and social benefits that they’d always been excluded from. And in some ways, there were real gains in the 2000s – the purchasing power of the working class and middle class strengthened somewhat, and programs like Bolsa Familia and Fome Zero helped millions of poor families. But at the first sign of economic instability, it all threatened to come apart… .
James Greiff refers to such insecurity as “the middle-class illusion” in Brazil:
Millions of Brazilians have indeed made it into the middle class and enjoy the trappings of a lifestyle that would be recognized by their economic peers in the U.S., Japan, Canada and most of Europe. They have iPhones and SUVs, Nike sneakers, Oakley sunglasses, take overseas vacations, enjoy imported delicacies, get braces to straighten teeth and plastic surgery to mask the wear of time.
They enjoy much of this material plenty, though, inside a personal-security bubble. Houses are fortified behind high walls topped by broken glass and barbed wire, while iron bars seal windows. Apartment complexes are similarly ring-fenced, with entranceways secured by guards, often bearing arms. These are needed not just to keep out robbers, but also so much else of what’s on the other side. Indeed, the middle-class illusion ends at the first step outside the front door.
And Joshua Tucker observes:
As Brazilians move into or climb up the middle class, they inevitably pay more in taxes – yet they also inevitably grow increasingly aware that they do not get their money’s worth. One commonly hears Brazilians complain that they pay “1st world taxes” – about 36% of GDP – but receive “3rd world services” in return. The protests thus represent growing frustration that established political parties are unwilling to implement reforms on both sides of the fiscal coin – to improve public services (particularly healthcare, education, and public safety) and reduce corruption.
Marc Tracy sees the ongoing protests as an outcome of urbanization:
This process upended centuries of a static social order in which the majority were denied many rights. Brazil’s urbanization, then, was in one sense a major step forward for most Brazilians, providing, as Holston put it, “a new density of opportunity” that stemmed from the literal density of the way people actually lived.
But the dialectical result of this new density and these new nominal rights has been that as tremendous inequality has remained—and when it has been ostentatiously exacerbated by, say, hosting international prestige projects such as the World Cup Finals and the Summer Olympics—Brazilians in the satellite cities on the peripheries (and even poorer Brazilians in the favelas, the frequently illegal shanty towns which are almost like the peripheries of the peripheries) have grown angry that their economic rights have not caught up with their political rights.
When you add to this mix the fact that everyone now lives closer to each other—another opportunity borne of density—you have the recipe for these massive protests.
However, when comparing Brazil to Turkey, James Traub finds that the former has democratic institutions better able to handle such strife:
While [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan has demonized his foes, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil has praised protestors for waking the country to its shortcomings. Brazil, too, faces a crisis, but not a crisis of representation, as Turkey does. Larry Diamond, a leading democracy scholar at Stanford, points out that both Rousseff and her Erdogan-like predecessor, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, had to do far more political bargaining than Erdogan because they rule through coalitions while Erdogan controls a parliamentary majority. And the reason for this, in turn, is that Turkish law excludes parties from parliament which do not win more than 10 percent of the national vote. The Turkish system enables Erdogan’s worst impulses. Working with rival parties might force him to learn a few hard lessons.
Another update from our São Paulo reader on the ground:
The protests and protesters here have been overwhelmingly peaceful and the police response has been largely peaceful for over a week. Following a series of protests in which the Policia Militar (they are the police force for this type of situation) were being very brutal and injured not only protesters but also passersby and journalists, the state governor Geraldo Alckmin, who controls the PM, told them to cool it. Since then, the front-lines of the PM who are following the protests are largely not carrying guns.
On Saturday night, at this protest I was following the police seemed to be in a good mood, at times were laughing along with the protesters. All this while the protesters were halting traffic on busy thoroughfares. Fortunately, many of the drivers seemed to be in favor of the protest, and were honking their horns and giving thumbs-ups. The difference that I saw between now and a week and a half ago is downright shocking.
In other parts of the country, however, the situation is completely different. While it seems that the vast, vast majority of protesters are peaceful and only want to engage in peaceful actions, the police response has been BRUTAL. In this report on Globo’s Jornal Nacional, one can see footage of the police response during a huge protest that occurred in Rio on Thursday June 20th. This was a huge protest with tens of thousands of people. At one end of the avenue were vandals who decided to attempt to break into city hall and do general damage to their local area. But the rest of the crowd were peaceful protesters, many of whom hadn’t even take part in a previous protest out of fear of violence. The way I have described it to my worried American friends is imagine a protest from Times Square to 72nd Street along Broadway. The crowd is peaceful, except for those between 70th and 72nd.
The police response was brutal. Instead of just focusing on the troublemakers (those between 70th and 72nd), they decided to just go bananas, shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters along the length of the crowd. In Globo’s report, there were people who were just waiting for the subway station to be reopened who were targeted. I came across reports of canisters of teargas being shot into bars where people are not even taking part in the protests, and tear gas was apparently even shot into a hospital.
In addition, there was a report in which three “protesters” were picking fights, yelling at the police and punching the horses of the mounted policemen (horrible!). The peaceful protesters (who were apparently everyone else) demanded that the police arrest these three vandals, but the police apparently refused and decided instead to shoot rubber bullets and tear gas at the entire group. The report was indicating that the bad protesters were planted there by the police to give them an excuse to be violent. Apparently, reporters were there but are no reporting this event. Here’s the link.
The police forces should be maintaining security for the peaceful protesters, in my opinion. Many of the people who have hit the streets have come out because of disgust at the violent police response. Brazilians have the constitutional right to protest and on this point Dilma agrees. However, the situation outside of what I have seen in the city of São Paulo has not changed.
Anyway, I don’t know where this is going. What I do know is that politicians have been incredibly spoiled by a populace who felt largely disenfranchised and who had accepted that the government was corrupt, there was no way to stop it, and let’s just focus on football, novelas and Big Brother. That feeling of disenfranchisement seems to have changed.
In this poll by Folha de São Paulo, 66% of people think the protests should continue. The fact that two-thirds of Paulistanos think the protests should continue is amazing, as the protests are negatively affecting all sorts of businesses (due to lack of customers), not to mention the traffic situation. For many of these people, their two-hour commute between work and home is growing even longer.
As everyone knows, Brazil has lots of problems, but Brazilians seem optimistic. According to Fantástico, Globo’s Sunday night news program, 94% percent of those polled thought that the issues pressing Brazil would be addressed, and 82% said they would not vote for a candidate who was corrupt. Here’s the link.