Field Guide to The Protests in Brazil

The world is a big place, it’s hard to keep track of it all. You’ve probably heard about the protests in Brazil, but might not be totally sure of what’s going on down there. This is an awful American mindset to have, but it’s kind of like starting to watch a TV show in the third season: as the protests escalate (or deescalate!) it’s hard to understand what’s going on without having a grounding in the protests’ beginnings.

Hey, let me help!


Earlier this century, Brazil was doing very well economically and politically, the nation was “on top of the world.‘ Due to the economic and social stability, the nation was selected as host for the World Cup and the Summer Olympics, only two years apart. Then, like the rest of the world, Brazil was hit by financial crisis. “In the face of ever-decreasing unemployment, fiscal and monetary stimuli led to higher inflation. Rents, food, and transportation costs have been going up at a faster pace than usual in the last 2 years.”

Timeline of protests:

In January of 2013, it was announced that transit fares in São Paulo would be raised from R$3.00 to R$3.20 per ride, which is not only a major price hike but also an inconvenient one: who carries ten cent pieces around?

The hike was set for June 1st.

A series of small protests took place immediately before and after the hike, and on June 6th the first large protest occurred in São Paulo. The police reaction was brutal and disproportionate.

This video tells the story well, including the story of a journalist who had a bottle of vinegar confiscated as a weapon. Vinegar is an antidote to tear gas.

The transit fares were lowered back to their original price on June 13th, but because the protests were indicative of larger problems, the protests continued.

On June 17th, 250,000 protesters took to the streets of cities all over Brazil. In Rio de Janeiro, the States’ Legislative Chamber was raided by protesters. Ten protesters were injured by gunfire, but it is unclear who shot them.

For a few days, protests subsided. Brazillians all over the world participated in protests in the countries they are living in.

The government began to meet the demands of the protesters, of which Wikipedia provides a handy timeline:


The protests have been criticized as being unorganized. In addition to the fare hikes and the reasons listed in the chart above, the protests have been cited as being about “the poor quality of public services, government inefficiency, and corruption.” In Brazil, taxes are high but public services are low.

A major grievance is two major upcoming events, the World Cup and the Olympics. What was once a symbol of the nation’s prosperity has become a symptom of overspending and misappropriation of funds.

Anti World Cup protesting has focused on peaceful rallying and using social media to cleverly subvert corporate sponsor’s slogans. It’s basically a soccer riot for smart people, people that understand that pouring money into organized sports is absurd.  If only your average college got this upset when the sports teams received more funding than the arts!

Despite the protests, “World soccer body FIFA on Friday condemned the recent violence but said it had not considered cancelling either the warmup tournament, known as the Confederations Cup, or the big event next year,” says the New York Times.

Andrew Jennings, author of FOUL! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote-Rigging and Ticket Scandals, asked CBCNews to empathize with the protesters: “[when] you realize the stadia cost three times as much as you were promised, it was all going to be private sector and no public money, you’d get angry,”

The people of Brazil feel that these events aren’t helping their country, and are only bringing money to outside organizations like FIFA. Again, quoth the New York Times, “Brazilians might adore their futebol, but in the words of Romário, a grand goal-poacher-turned-congressman, the money spent on the Mané Garrincha stadium in the capital of Brasilia could have been used to build 150,000 houses for low-income families.”

What’s Going on Now:

The protests have calmed down a bit. The President of Brazil, “promised on Friday to hold a dialogue with members of a protest movement sweeping the country, but also said she would do whatever is necessary to maintain order in the wake of widespread vandalism and looting.” Who knows how many more demands are getting met. If you refer to the chart above, many of the unmet demands seem like definite steps in the right direction for a government.

None of the sporting events have been cancelled or altered in anyway.

On July 1, protesters, “armed with screwdrivers and slingshots” again clashed with police outside of the final game of the confederate cup.

The Prime Minister of Turkey–a nation also going through political unrest–claimed that the protests in his country (against him) are part of the same “conspiracy” as the Brazilian protests. He blames the protests on “unspecified foreign forces, bankers and media outlets.”

What do you think about this? Are major displays of athletics a waste of money? What about the other issues?

Why do major movements like this never happen in America? Sure, we had Occupy, but that wasn’t as huge of a deal. In New York our transit fines are raised quite frequently, and we can only find it within ourselves to whine about it on Twitter… Why hasn’t the PRISM scandal been a call for outrage?

As major protests hit nations across the world, what does it mean for the global society?

Images via Reuters, Guardian and Wikipedia. 

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