Lost Sambista

A Brazil never seen.

What are the protests in Brazil about?

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While Brazil’s economic well being looks promising in the short and in the medium run, things have been strange in the political arena. Earlier this year, during the Confederations football Cup, there was a raging wave of protests while, under the surface, there is political unrest that may erupt during the World Cup.

Any uninformed person would jump to the conclusion that the protests come from the hungry masses who are discontent with the government for privileging big contracts instead of spending money on hospitals, education, housing etc… It is true that many are not happy but no, this is not where the anger is coming from. The discontent is coming from the middle and upper middle classes. The typical protester is a young, white male with a good level of education and no economic upheaval to deal with.

In other words, the protests are coming from the right rather than from the left. In general, the vast majority of the Brazilians, the working class, do not have strong reasons to protest, a proof of this is that there are very few working class people in the protests. The statistics show that there has been an improvement in their standards of living; more jobs, more education, more consumption… the list is long. They have benefited from the policies of the current left wing party, the PT, that has been in power for around a decade and that will most probably win the next elections.

So what are the protests about? Ask the average middle class Brazilian, and he will answer that they are about corruption in the government, more specifically among members of the PT. This is where the argumentation gets bizarre, they do not mention corruption in other parties, which in many cases is more severe than in the PT and if you listen closely, they will describe corruption as an exclusivity of the Lula and the Dilma governments, a clear fallacy for anyone who knows anything about Brazil.

There will also be the technocrats who will say that they are annoyed at the enormous presence of the State in the economy. They will defend Brazil adopting an economic model closer to the precepts of Wall Street and of the City of London: leave everything to private enterprise; they have the most qualified people and they know what they are doing. However, this is not what the protest are about, the young people in the streets do not carry neo-conservative nor monetarists flags. These arguments are only being heard now when the economy is beginning to dip. It was not so when Brazil paid their gigantic external debt, fixed the hyperinflation that corroded Brazil in the 80’s and in the 90’s and when it became the darling of international investors. In fact, the last time anyone heard these voices was when they gave terrible advice to the military regime in tackling the economic crisis. Everyone knows that if it were for these people Brazil would never have climbed out of that hole.

The question still begs an answer, what are the protests about? It is our understanding that they are about anxiety and powerlessness in the middle classes. The moralistic crusade, the hatred towards the left, the privileging of the technical over the democratic process reverts us to the rise of fascism and Nazism in the 1930’s. The country that the PT constructed during its large mandate has helped the rich to get richer and has taken a huge portion of Brazilians out of poverty. Meanwhile, the PT’s traditional voting base, the urban middle class, has not received the benefits of the economic growth. In many ways, they feel betrayed and are now worried about what will happen after the World Cup and the Olympic Games.

Justified or not, the poison is in the air. The protests were violent and there may be an escalation during the World Cup, when the embarrassment for the Government and the international exposure will be at its greatest. There are many questions: No one knows what this new right wants, not even themselves. All we know is that there is a lot of irrational anger and that they want the PT out. Apart from this, there is no party behind them nor do they have any leadership or any defined goal. Never the less problems may arise when some better organized group or power will appropriate this energy and use it for nonconstructive purposes.

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2 thoughts on “What are the protests in Brazil about?

  1. Man, I love the stuff you write, but this line was laughable:

    “the vast majority of the Brazilians, the working class, do not have any reasons to protest”.

    It is true that things (on the surface) have improved in Brazil and that the majority of protesters are middle class. But everybody (except the millionaires and corrupted politicians) has reasons to be angry in Brazil. The working class is dying in hospital lines, being robbed and butchered in the streets, and suffering in packed buses that look more like animal transportation. And they also pay abusive taxes. How come only the middle class has reasons to protest? C’mon, man… I’m disappointed. Somehow I feel you’re politically biased. No offense, it is normal and I used to be indoctrinated by MEC and the Brazilian intellectualloid leftism as well – virtually all Brazilians are – specially the middle class (ironically). But not anymore – at least not me.

    I’m sure that at least 99% of Brazilians have many reasons to be angry. If many now get free crumbles via “Bolsa Familia”, it doesn’t mean that they are ok and don’t have reasons to be angry.

    Cheers.

    • Alex,

      I am not indoctrinated by anyone, so lets get that out of the way.

      I left Brazil twice, in the eighties and in the nineties, back then, the INPS, now the SUS, was as shit as it is now, the corruption was the same, the urban violence was worse, the problems that existed then still exist now. I also paid abusive taxes, I also went around in crappy transportation,So with this we can also take away the premise that Brazil was a wonderful country that the current government spoiled.

      You don’t need to go far to see, as I stated in the article, that who is discontent with the PT, are not the mega millionaires nor the poor people are dissatisfied with the state of affairs, I am sorry to tell you that the statistics don’t lie, their lives have improved, the education is better (not perfect), the health system is better (not perfect), the security is better (not perfect) etc….. Do you need a proof of this? they will re-elect Dilma, the only other candidate that comes close to her in Marina, also a left winger.

      As the article states, who is unsatisfied with the government is the middle class, do they have reasons to be? I think so, they voted on the PT and their lives have not changed.

      I guess I am older than you, I went through the years of recession and inflation, I experienced friends killing themselves, I experienced parents of friends killing themselves, most of my friends went to live abroad because of the lack of opportunities. That was bad, compared to then life now is easy in Brazil.

      So no offence, I think the current generation of protesters have discovered that life is tough after they left their comfort of their middle class homes, Also, no offence, I believe they are being manipulated, there is a lot of irrational anger but they don’t really know what they want nor do they have a grasp of the bigger picture.

      Cheers,

      Rique

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