032_G17_Spotlight_Brazil

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Spotlight Brazil Safety in numbers Frustration with the government’s fiscal policy prompted ordinary Brazilians to take to the streets in protest for the first time in decades in the spring of 2013 Mauricio Savarese Soaring inflation and creative accounting: these are the roots of Brazil’s biggest protests in decades. If it weren’t for those two coming together exactly during the Confederations Cup, the World Cup’s dress rehearsal and a shopping window for foreign media, it would have been difficult for the mass demonstrations of June to even take place. Police violence and the sense that there was a lot to complain about transformed the sparkle into a big fire. But it was all started by a tactless managerial decision made in Brasília. The turmoil began with a US$0.10 increase in transport fares in São Paulo – a move that was supposed to happen in January, when students were still on vacation. But President Dilma Rousseff, a pro-business leftist who was never a fan of fiscal conservatives, asked for a postponement in the rise. She argued that a fare change at the beginning of the year would impact dramatically on the inflation target. By the time she was ready, so were protesters. Youngsters had four months of the school year to campaign and build up support. At the beginning of June, the movement gathered from moderates to anarchists in São Paulo, a city flooded by cars and crowded buses. Their focus wasn’t World Cup spending or corruption – their motto was “a world without turnstiles”, since they wanted public transportation to be free. As São Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad, a close ally of Rousseff’s, showed no interest in negotiation – and governor Geraldo Alckmin decided to increase tube fares at the same time – the hundreds who first turned out became a few thousand. That’s when rioters appeared, targeting banks and public buildings. When a policeman was shown drenched in blood on the cover of major newspapers, the mainstream media took sides. On 13 June, two of the big dailies – Folha de S. Paulo and Estado de S. Paulo – insisted that the police should act. They did so that very night. The forces controlled by Alckmin attacked vandals, peaceful protesters, bystanders, journalists and whoever else was in the way. The media withdrew their support because the police violence enraged everyone. Brazilians strongly reject violence as a means to getting things done. We get too much of it already. In 2012, about 50,000 people were unlawfully killed – the same number as died in Mexico, a country torn by narco-traffic violence. We fear crime, but 32 l www.global -br ief ing.org f i rst quar ter 2014 global © Tânia Rêgo/ABr


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