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Brazil – “We Have Woken Up”

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sage:  There are three articles here; each telling the story from a differing viewpoint. Essentially, what started out in Brazil as a protest against an increase in bus fares – a 20 centavos increase (approx 9 cents CDN), which was seen as a huge increase to a poverty stricken people – became the straw that broke the nation’s camel’s back.

With the country spending billions to host the upcoming 2014 World Cup (and despite football being the national sport and Pele being a national hero), and even more preparing to host the 2016 Olympics, the protestors were further fuelled by endemic government corruption, police brutality and graft, social services cuts and wasteful spending. And it is these underlying issues that gave them the strength to carry on despite water cannons, rubber bullets and horses’ hooves flying. 

But what tickles me pink is the following statement from a citizen:  “And this year we rise. We have woken up. We are on the streets like in Turkey and Greece. They have made us wake up about this. …”  May we all “wake up” and use our mighty voice to make a difference.

Story 1 – Brazil Protesters Win U-turn on Fare Rises

By Jonathan Watts, The Guardian – June 19, 2013

Authorities in Brazil’s two biggest cities have made a U-turn on public transport fare increases in the face of mass protests that have overshadowed the country’s build up to next year’s World Cup.

In advance of major demonstrations on Thursday, the leaders of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro announced that bus and subway price rises will be rescinded, but it is far from certain that this will be enough to mollify public unrest.

Although the demonstrations began on a small scale last week in opposition to the fare rises, they have spread rapidly to encompass a variety of frustrations. A quarter of a million people took to the streets in at least 12 cities on Monday to call for better public services, an end to corruption, punishment for police brutality, and less wasteful spending on the World Cup.

Sporadic protests have continued since and spread to smaller cities, occasionally resulting in violence. Among the most recent incidents was a clash on Wednesday between police and demonstrators in the north-eastern city of Fortaleza ahead of a Confederations Cup

Riot police control crowds before a match between Brazil and Mexico in Fortaleza yesterday. Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA

game in the city between Brazil and Mexico. The 15,000 protestors were forced back from the Castelão stadium perimeter with pepper spray, tear gas and – by one account – rubber bullets. A police car was torched and some supporters were obstructed on their way to the game.

President Dilma Rousseff has attempted to placate the protesters by declaring her government willing to listen. She also held meetings with several regional governors, urging them to step back on fare increases and to ensure police restraint.

São Paulo’s mayor Fernando Haddad reluctantly accepted, but said the loss of revenue for fares would affect other areas of the budget. “This will represent a big sacrifice and we will have to reduce investments in other areas,” he said.

The organisers of the demonstrators have yet to respond, but protest groups on Facebook and other social network sites that have rallied the public continue to call for “a million man march” on Thursday. There is also expected to be a protest near the Maracanã ahead of a Confederations Cup game in the afternoon.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has called on Brazil’s protesters to stop linking their demonstrations to the tournament, which is a dry run for the World Cup. “I can understand that people are not happy, but they should not use football to make their demands heard,” Blatter said on Globo TV, a domestic station.

But several of Brazil’s national team players have expressed their support for the demonstrators. “I see these demonstrators and I know that they are right,” the forward Hulk told a press conference in Fortaleza on Tuesday. “We know Brazil needs to improve in many areas and must let the demonstrators express themselves.”

Fifa’s tournaments have become a focus for many demonstrators, who feel the 12 stadiums the country has built or renovated at huge cost show how public money is spent on projects that benefit construction companies and TV stations rather than hospital and schools.

This argument has been eloquently expressed in English in a popular YouTube video titled “No, I’m not going to the World Cup”, which has drawn more than 1.5m hits.

The video’s narrator, Carla Dauden, said: “Suddenly there is all this money available to build new stadiums and the population is led to believe the World Cup is the change they need for their lives to get better. “But the truth is that most of the money from the games and the stadiums goes straight to Fifa and we don’t see it so we don’t get it and the money from tourists and investors goes to those who already have money.”

The government says the $13.3bn spending on the tournaments is also being used to improve roads, metro services, airports, communications and public security, all of which would help boost the country’s economic and social development.

This point was emphasised by Blatter, who said Fifa did not impose the tournament on the hosts. “Brazil asked to host the World Cup,” Blatter said. “They knew that to host a good World Cup they would naturally have to build stadiums.

“But we said that it was not just for the World Cup. Together with the stadiums there are other constructions: highways, hotels, airports … Items that are for the future. Not just for the World Cup.”

He and Rousseff were booed by the crowd at the opening ceremony of the Confederations Cup on Saturday.

Riot police control crowds before a match between Brazil and Mexico in Fortaleza yesterday. Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA

Story 2 – Brazil Protests 2013: It’s About Way More Than Bus Fare

By David Lavin, Policymic – June 18, 2013

What began as a localized protest against rising bus fares last week in Brazil has become a national outcry, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators challenging everything from government corruption and the rising cost of living to the billions of dollars invested in the World Cup and Olympic infrastructure.

More than 215,000 citizens took to the streets Monday night in over 40 cities and 12 state capitals in the second week of protests in the country. In Brasilia, the capital, protesters occupied the national Congress. In Rio de Janeiro, an estimated 100,000 mostly peaceful protesters marched, and a breakaway group attacked a state legislative assembly building.

The demonstrations started last week in São Paulo in protest of the increase in a single bus fare from 3 reals to 3.20 (roughly $1.40 to $1.50), but they went national when images of police brutality against the protesters in São Paulo spread rapidly across social media. Brazil’s military police were shown beating unarmed protesters and firing rubber bullets and tear gas at peaceful protesters, passersby, and journalists.

A wave of national protests — the largest and most significant in over 20 years — soon followed, with marchers united under chants of “No to violence” and under banners declaring, “It isn’t for 20 cents, it is for our rights” and “Who is the World Cup for?”

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.

“The bus fare increase is just the straw that broke the camel’s back,” one protester in Rio de Janeiro said, “We’re tired of the corruption, the violence and not getting the services that are our right.”

Riot police take positions during a protest in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Tuesday, June 18. Demonstrations began in response to plans to increase fares for Brazil’s public transportation system but have broadened into wider protests over economic and social issues plaguing the country.

Story 3 – World Cup Only Benefits Outsiders, Say Brazil Protesters

By James Montague, CNN – June 19, 2013

Belo Horizonte, Brazil (CNN) — At 11 pm, the tired and the injured gathered in Belo Horizonte for one last expression of discontent.

More than a thousand sat in Praca Sete de Setembro, a square in the center of the city, chanting against the government and the police. But they weren’t the crowd’s only enemy. A sign hung from a nearby balcony. It read: “Anti Copa.”

On the pavement the words “A FIFA é Foda” had been painted: “F*** You, FIFA,” in Portuguese. The roads had been blocked off by the military police, who watched the protesters from afar. A bank of police horses chewed on piles of hay left for them on the road.

Daniel Sanabria, a technician in his 20s, stood nearby cradling his arm, an ice pack on top of a bloody bandage. He peeled it off to reveal an ugly red welt on his left hand. “A bullet,” he explained.

The day was supposed to have been something of a coronation for Belo Horizonte, a relatively quiet and small city — if a population of 2.5 million people could ever be called small — surrounded by mountains, an hour’s flight north of Rio de Janeiro.

Its famous Mineirao football stadium had just hosted its first match of the 2013 Confederations Cup, a 6-1 victory for African champions Nigeria against the tiny Pacific islanders of Tahiti.

It was a dry run for next year’s World Cup finals which return to Brazil for the first time since 1950, a chance to prove that the country was ready to host the most world’s most popular sports tournament.

Instead, military and civilian helicopters flew overhead, roads were blocked and military police stationed throughout the city as a series of protests sparked by anger about the cost of living, poor quality education and high transport costs took place at the same time as the match.

The initial spark for the protests was a rise in bus fares in Sao Paulo. The anger was such that, even in a country often caricatured for its deification of soccer, the World Cup, its surrogate cousin the Confederations Cup and the game’s global governing body FIFA, have all become symbolic of corruption and waste.

Protesters believe the tournament has seen the rich line their pockets, while the poor make do with crumbling public services. The World Cup, it seems, has sparked something that has lain dormant for a long time.

And this year we rise. We have woken up. We are on the streets like in Turkey and Greece. They have made us wake up about this.

“Tonight this is about all of Brazil, we are moving against corruption. We have been suffering for too many years,” said Tainara Freitas, a teacher who had remained with the protest until the end.

“And this year we rise. We have woken up. We are on the streets like in Turkey and Greece. They have made us wake up about this. The World Cup in Brazil is about too much money. There are too many poor people suffering. The World Cup isn’t good for Brazil. It will bring tourists and money but this is not good for poor people.”

Earlier in the day 15,000 protesters had marched towards the Mineirao as hundreds of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets across the country in the first coordinated mass protests of this size since the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship in the mid 1980s.

Police responded with tear gas, firing rubber bullets into the crowd, and beat protesters who burned barricades in return. I watched Tahiti’s brave performance on the pitch as the protesters gathered outside, speaking to Brazilian sports writer Igor Resende at half time about the match and the reasons for the anger. A few hours later he was in hospital after apparently being shot in the back with a rubber bullet.

“The police came with a brutal force,” recalled Resende. “I didn’t see the protesters do anything. The police threw a bomb and it exploded in the middle of the protest. Then police began to shoot.”

Resende said he was hit in the back by a rubber bullet as he ran away.

“In that moment I just ran. I thought that if I looked back the police would probably shoot me again. I don’t think the police are well prepared. They are badly paid. They have a bad life. They act like this because they are scared.”

But Resende said he has doubt that the police response was related to the Confederations Cup.

“I spoke to one of the highest ranked police guys in state yesterday. He told me 3,500 policeman were on the streets because of the game. They are acting to avoid conflict near the stadiums. The police and FIFA don’t want the protesters near the stadiums.”

For FIFA, who have been critical of Brazil’s preparations for the World Cup, the protests are an unwelcome complication for a tournament already long behind schedule.

“People are using the platform of football and the international media presence to make certain demonstrations,” said FIFA president Sepp Blatter who, alongside the Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, was booed by the crowd at the opening ceremony on Saturday.

Speaking in an interview in Rio on Monday, he said: “You will see today is the third day of the competition this will calm down. It will be a wonderful competition.”

But the protests have not calmed down. The day after Blatter’s interview, the biggest demonstrations yet took place. Sanabria and Freitas agreed that the Confederations Cup, which continues for another 12 days, is an opportunity to make their voices heard.

I asked them both what messaged they wanted to send FIFA and the football world.

“Please, please, make more pressure on our government, on the Brazilian government to look out for us,” said Freitas before she made her way back into the protest, Sanabria still clutching his injured hand.

“They are looking out for people outside the country, they aren’t looking for us, for the poor people.”

The protestors now have the world’s attention.


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