Thursday, July 11, 2013

Democracy in Brazil

OK,  as soon as I published the post about graffiti last week and the quadrilha post this week,  I realized I had to finish and share about what is going on in Brazil currently.   The world has been watching as Brazilians by the millions have taken to the streets in reaction to the state of current politics.  It all started when a small group of people began protesting a 0.10 increase in bus fares in Sao Paulo and Rio and escalated from there. For me the movement gained momentum when two things occurred.  Well at least in my eyes and you must remember that frustrations about political progress run deep in the history
of Brazil.  Brazil is a fairly new democracy as they were ruled by military law and dictatorship until the mid to late 1980's.  The first President directly elected by the people,  Fernando Collar was impeached from office on charges of corruption.  All this history plays into the current attitude of the citizens towards politicians and police.
What is this current uprising all about and the two things I believe fueled the fire?   Let's start with the the fueling of the fire and the first one has to do with the police.  Remember how Brazil was a military state.  It is common knowledge that many police and military personnel during this time took advantage of their power and acted violently towards the citizens they were suppose to protect.  When a small group of protesters gathered in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to voice their opinion about the hike in public transportation,  they were met by
this same police force who responded to their peaceful demonstration with force.  Using tear gas and rubber bullets on the crowds which then ignited the pushed down anger felt towards authority by many Brazilians. The second thing I believe fueled the fire is the opening of the Confederation Cup, the precursor to the 2014 World Cup.   When the current President of Brazil was introduced at the stadium for the first game of the tournament,  the crowd let off a loud boo which was prominently heard.  I think this was a fuel as many Brazilians did not realize how many of them were feeling the same discontent about the current state of affairs. This booing added the power of numbers and to me seemed to encourage the people who may have been reluctant before to now voice their opinions.  Realizing there are many other fellow Brazilians feeling the same way they are.
Now, what is it all about?  As the protests grew and people took to the streets many frustrations seemed to fester.  It was almost like the perfect storm.  With a good economy over the past years many Brazilians were able to travel abroad and see what life is like in other countries.  These experiences changed their expectations of what Brazil can be.  Many of my friends fit into this group of people.  They no longer want to live in a society where things start hours late,  cars don't respect pedestrians, garbage litters the streets,  and people don't pay attention to things like one way streets or stop signs.  They bring back these experiences and quietly wish for change but now they have an opportunity to voice this desire.
Some of the people protesting are doing so because of pending legislation before the government of
Brazil.  Last year the Supreme Court of Brazil convicted some 25 politicians in the largest corruption scandal since the early years of democracy.   Politicians and officials paid money for political support using public funds.  Although there are many people upset about this revelation they joined the protests because of recent  legislation which was introduced in reaction to this trial.  If passed it would limit the power of public  defenders in such cases making it harder for them to bring these people to justice.  To many Brazilians this looked like the same old political doings and corruption they have been frustrated by. Since the protest, the Brazilian Congress voted against the legislation by a strong majority.  (*side note - some Brazilians think it is no coincidence that the vote was scheduled to take place the same day Brazil was to play a fotebal game so it could quietly pass.  Prior to the protests there was overwhelming support of the legislation in the Congress.)  
Another issue that has stirred in this uprising has to do with the World Cup and Olympics which are both being held here over the next few years. While billions of dollars have been spent preparing for these world sporting events,  promises of better infrastructure like roads, schools, hospitals, airports and public transportation have been left unmet.  As the World Cup approaches and the amounts spent on getting the stadiums ready skyrockets past projections.  Many Brazilians see this as a part of the corrupt system currently in place.   They question why so much is being spent on these events and so little is spent on the people of Brazil. They don't want to just be a place to come party but a place to live a good life.  Even the most famous Brazilian soccer player Pele has taken criticism for going on television asking people to support the football team and asking them to see the team as who Brazil is.   Leaving this turmoil behind, but I believe the supporters of the movement are pushing for the country to be more then just soccer and reaching their true potential.
The past few weeks have seen the Brazilian President going to the television promising to use the new found oil reserve revenues for schools and education.  Bringing doctors from other countries to provide better medical care.  All in an attempt to work with the people's frustration and work through the Democratic process.  We will have to wait and see how Democracy plays out in this large South American country.
I know some of my friends back in the USA the past couple of weeks  have asked just what is going on in Brazil so I thought I must at least give my perception.  I believe it is a huge challenge for the government of Brazil to make things happen over the next year or we will see larger protests during the 2014 World Cup.   Time will tell.

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