Last week, the newest example of a Police State began crawling in Brazil.
It happened in Porto Alegre, Sao Paulo and Brasilia, the district of criminals, the equivalent of Washington DC in North America and London, England. Along with the inauguration of the Police State, we’ve also seen the start of the drainage of wealth from Brazil by FIFA, which will slowly and surely change shape once Petrobras begins extracting crude oil in larger amounts from the Pre-sal.
The Police State will have another chance to show off its face during the other games of the Confederations Cup, which will occur in the center and north of the country. Brazilians disappointed with their government’s management of resources, much of it inherited from the Lula administration, have taken to the streets to voice their concern about how billions of their tax payer money is used to build so-called “white elephants”, a term used to identify new soccer stadiums to host the Confederations Cup, the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.
The Brazilian government had been preparing for a long time for these sports events as well as for the protests that could arise. As we have reported before, the Brazilian regime increased its purchase of weapons from Israeli military manufacturers to a point that turned it into one of the largest purchasers of military equipment in recent years. The government of the state of Rio Grande do Sul is working with Israeli military contractors to establish a military hub in Rio Grande do Sul, where weapons such as drones will be produced.
For now, only tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets have been used against the people who dared walk on the streets to demand improvements in education, health and basic services, as supposed to paying FIFA billions to let the country host sports events. The violence with which the police forces have oppressed the people has caught many by surprise. Even Sao Paulo’s mayor, Fernando Haddad, accepted that the police used excessive force against protesters last Thursday.
Although security is one of the most important concerns for Brazilians, they are not asking the government to make it safer. How could they, when government forces are the ones hitting them with clubs, spraying them and gassing them?
Twenty cents that broke the camels back
Despite major examples of government corruption over the last three decades, it was a 20 cent increase in public transport what made protests florish not only in Brazil, but also in other 24 cities around the world. Brazilians who live abroad gathered in Dublin this weekend and will gather in Montreal, Boston, London, Paris and other major cities to show their support for the protests at home, where millions of young Brazilians have ignited an anti-government sentiment all over the South American nation.
São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre rose last week against a 20 cent increase in public transport fares. This wave of demonstrations, still poorly organized, set a precedent in a country with a debilitated democracy of just 28 years in which its citizens take to the streets after the scandalous cases of corruption to which they are exposed to every day.
The demonstration Thursday in São Paulo, marked by “police violence”, ended with 235 detained and over 100 injured. Most of the injured were affected by tear gas and rubber bullets shot at close range. Although the Ministry of Security investigates whether abuse occurred during the protest, the governor Geraldo Alckmin of the opposition Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), defended the actions of the agents and justified the violence by saying that the protests had a “political taint”.
Partisan or not, the proclamations, clashes with police and vandalized benches, buses and subway stations are not motivated solely because the public transportation ticket reach $1.50 in a country where the minimum wage is $250. “I don’t use public transportation, but I think the increase is unfair and has motivated Brazilians to organized. We do not have a culture of protest: because Brazilians are not informed, are not education and do not know their rights. I haven’t seen protests since the demonstrations against President Fernando Collor in 1992,” says Iva Oliveira, who at 49 years of age was one of the veterans of the march.
Violence is another reason that moves this young crowd, many of them still in college. The State of São Paulo coexists with significant crime rates, although low when compared with other states of the country. According to official numbers, there are 11.5 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
The frustration is not only directed against criminals who do not blink before pulling the trigger, but also against police procedures that has rendered one death of a protester who the police says “resisted while being arrested.”
“This movement is not of action but reaction. The authorities do not open the dialogue, its policy is not transparent “criticized Deborah Ungaretti, a 23 year-old law student who participated of the demonstration. “I did not use violence, but I understand how it was justified. I came to protest against the banks and the financial system that is dominating us, military police base were attacked because they are the ones who are oppressing us, buses were burned because there are still 35 million Brazilians who do not have access to public transport because they can not afford it”.
It is still early to say whether this can be the start of strong movement, but many of those who attended the demonstration yesterday hope so. “We will take no more corruption, problems in the health system, lack of education … The bus fare is just the tip of the iceberg”, says Antonio Marcos a 28-year real estate agent, a supporter of Anonymous, who protested along a group of neighbors. “What we hope is that this will become something bigger and for that we have to go outside to show who should have the power,” he said.
The manifestations caught authorities with the pants down, especially the President Dilma Rousseff, who was booed on Saturday at the Mane Garricha Stadium in Brasilia.
The Minister of Institutional Relations, Ideli Salvati, has condemned the violence and justified the reasons that have led protesters to the street: “Transport is expensive. There are people who spend three or four hours to reach their destination.”
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Contributed by Luis Miranda of The Real Agenda.
Luis R. Miranda is the Founder and Editor of The Real Agenda. His 16 years of experience in Journalism include television, radio, print and Internet news. Luis obtained his Journalism degree from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, where he graduated in Mass Media Communication in 1998. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting from Montclair State University in New Jersey. Among his most distinguished interviews are: Costa Rican President Jose Maria Figueres and James Hansen from NASA Space Goddard Institute.