Archives For: Brazil Bus Fare Protests

Brazil Is Still Broiling

Jun 24 2013 @ 8:45pm

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:

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Brazilian readers continue to inform us on the situation as good as any blogger:

I live in Sao Paulo and here are some photos I took last night. One thing of note for your readers is that, as usual, the media is focusing on the violence of the protests. The vast, vast majority of the protesters are not violent at all. In fact, a common chant of the protesters is “Sem Violencia,” or without violence. Take a look at the photo that says “Violência é a tarifa” (violence is the fare). Reuters cropped the photo so it only showed the word “Violência,” and then selected largely photos of protesters doing mischief and burning things. Oh well, confirming our ideas about “dangerous Latin America” always sells ad space. Never mind trying to figure out what a place like Brazil is really about.

The protests are more than just calling for a 9 cents (US) fare reduction. Brazil has a lot of very serious problems that need to be addressed. But at times during the protests I have been to, I don’t know … while I’m delighted to see everyone out on the streets (especially on Mondaynight), I couldn’t shake the feeling of worry. Where’s the plan? You can’t just hold up a sign that says “End corruption.” Who wants corruption? IMG_1905 1Who doesn’t want better schools? The call for reducing the transport fares is a good start, I suppose, but 9 cents does not really fix the problem. What about the fact that the system needs to be expanded further?

I guess I am worried that the government will cave on this fare hike and then say, nope, sorry no money to improve schools. No money to improve health care. Of course, this response is ridiculous, as they have plenty of money. It’s just being directed into the politicians’ pockets.

Another:

I may be biased, but this reader is uninformed. They’re right that Dilma herself is not the issue here. Where they’re wrong is that this is just people feeling the economic squeeze. Things have not gotten that bad here economically, at least not yet. And they definitely haven’t tanked on the level that Argentina has recently. No, the point is corruption. The point is that it doesn’t seem to matter who the president is because nothing ever gets done.

There are two long-term problems here that are inspiring most of this.

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A reader writes:

I think the readers who wrote in about the protests in Brazil are somewhat biased. These protests are not like Turkey’s: President Dilma Rousseff has not restricted any liberties or tried to impose a moral code on her people. More importantly, they are not really about inequality or corruption; the GINI coefficient in Brazil has declined every single year since 2001.

Not to sound too much like Paul Krugman, but these protests are about simple economics. Over the past 10 years, Rousseff and her predecessor Lula Da Silva have presided over an amazing feat, engineering both rapid economic growth and a decisive narrowing of inequality. They did this by creating huge and revolutionary social welfare programs, like the Bolsa Familia. All of this has done amazing things in Brazil, but now the bills are coming due. The high budget deficits run by the governments and the low interest rates making credit available to poor entrepreneurs have led to scarily high inflation. As a result, the government has had to raise some revenue and decrease the availability of credit. Thus, the hike in bus fares.

I don’t blame the Brazilian protesters for being angry; economic stagnation is not very fun, especially after years of boom times. But Brazil remains a remarkably liberal country which continues to make amazing progress improving on inequality. The other choice for Brazil, to refuse to change any of its spending habits or raise revenue or interest rates, is to become like Argentina.

Dish readers supplied the initial context for the massive protests in Brasilia, Rio, and Sao Paulo. David Lavin zooms out:

Brazil’s public transportation is often slow, dangerous and crowded, and these fare increases come at a time when Brazil’s decade-long economic success has slowed dramatically. Inflation is on the rise and many basic services are woefully underfunded. For years, the economy grew, the middle class expanded and millions rose from poverty. After the country suffered through crushing hyperinflation in the 1980’s and 1990’s, inflation seemed to be finally under control.

But recently the economy has stalled, much-feared inflation is outside of targets, and rising prices on everything from food to transportation have made life more difficult for the average Brazilian. It is this contrast, between the massive investment in Olympic and World Cup infrastructure, and the lack of investment in the basics Brazilians depend on in their daily lives, that seems to be sparking the unrest.

Roberto Ferdman breaks down how badly the hikes are squeezing average Brazilians:

A fare price that sounds pretty minuscule in dollar terms actually takes up a huge chunk of Brazilian incomes for those at the bottom (and presumably, those who most need to use the bus). The $0.09 hike brought the price of a single bus fare in Sao Paolo up to $1.47. Assuming Brazil’s city dwellers ride the bus twice daily—to and from work during the week, and to and from anywhere during the weekend—that’s $82.46 a month. For Brazilians making the minimum wage of $312.33 a month, that’s a whopping 26% of their income.

A reader quotes another to underscore the severity of the World Cup concerns:

The reporters also are lamenting that this is happening during the Confederate’s Cup, as it’s going to embarrass the country on the international level. It was a HUGE deal for Brazil to land the World Cup and Olympics because it meant tons of money was going to be pumped into the country to build infrastructure.

This is like saying Oakeshott is a good philosopher. Factually true, but greatly understated. The World Cup is, arguably, the largest cultural event on the planet.

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On-the-ground readers report:

Why nary a mention of the anti-government protests going on in Brazil? Tens of thousands of people are demonstrating in cities throughout the world’s sixth largest economy – certainly big news and something of this scale not seen in South America since the ’80s. Granted it’s not the Middle East. However, it’s a significant event worthy of some coverage/analysis on the Dish, IMO.

The IMO is admittedly biased. I just returned from marching with protestors along Av. Faria Lima in São Paulo. Things were quite peaceful, one could even say festive, as clowns trounced about, a man on stilts danced around (dusted them off before Carnaval it seems), and groups of drummers played classic samba rhythms. Much of this is simply indicative of Brazilian culture – the whole enjoying life and trying to have a good time part of it.

Nonetheless, the general message of the protests was not festive: “We deserve better from our government.”

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