18 June 2013

A Revolta do Vinagre

Yesterday`s march of 100,000 cariocas occurred almost 45 years to the day as the famous march of the 100,000 against the dictatorship in 1968. That movement was led by very strong student organizations and was a brave confrontation of the status quo. A second protest a few days later resulted in 28 deaths and the jailing of hundreds of students.  The dictatorship lasted until 1985.

Throughout Brazil, hundreds of thousands are taking to the streets in what is being called A Revolta do Vinagre. The Vinegar Revolt refers to the arrest of a São Paulo journalist that was arrested for having a bottle of vinegar in his pocket. Vinegar is used to minimize the effects of tear gas. Yesterday one banner in Rio read: Liberté, egalité, fraternité, vinagraté.

The Vinegar Revolt is a reaction to the total absence of quality in public services and the deteriorating condition of institutional democracy. The protest began as a response to an increase in bus fares. The increase in bus fares has been constant and as I have been cataloguing here for years, service has not improved in the least. To the contrary, everything in Brazil is much more expensive with no increase in quality. Traffic is worse than ever, public transportation is completely inadequate. The government is spending tens of billions on mega-events guaranteeing profits for the rest of the world while ordinary people struggle to get from A to B. Their children struggle to get from A to Z.

This is a general revolt of the middle classes who are thoroughly disgusted with the country`s direction. They see incredibly high taxes going into the pockets of corrupt politicians that have never opened up any meaningful democratic channels. The Brazilian president, Dilma, is authoritarian and detached from reality. After some initial positive steps to combat corruption she stopped. Her lack of political capacity has ruined economic growth. The taxes we pay here disappear into a black box that is sometimes put on four wheels, stuffed with people and recklessly driven around cities.

Brazil is emptying its coffers to FIFA and the IOC, with little chance of them being refilled. The hosting of the various megas means that the city streets are more for tourists than locals and when locals try to take the street back, they are met with violence. It was no accident that Dilma was booed off the stage at the opening of the Confederations Cup.

Public education is terrible, so the middle class feels like they have to send their children to private school. Public health care is also terrible, so those who can pay for private care. Public culture is increasingly commoditized and branded, given over to private interests. Iconic football venues have been “transformed” into shopping malls with no public consultation. There are infinite public projects para o ingles ver: tramlines, UPP, choque de ordem, blinged-out stadiums that attend to the desperate needs of VIPs to pretend they live in Europe. The only way to carry this off is through violence, or the threat of violence, which amounts to the same thing. These are not growing pains, this is pure sacanagem.

As yesterday’s Al Jazeera piece clearly demonstrated, the Brazilian police are absolutely un-prepared to deal with peaceful demonstrators. If you need more evidence, check out http://copaemcuiaba.com.br/ and draw your own conclusions. Not only do the police receive terrible wages, they are stuck in a corrupt system that has never had any significant reform in ideology, functioning or control. Never. Not before the dictatorship and not after the return to democracy. There were several reports yesterday that indicated the police wanted to be out protesting as well, but alas, duty called. There were also confirmed reports that police were using live ammunition against protesters in Rio. It is also likely that the vandals involved in yesterday`s protest were acting on behalf of the government in order to de-legitimize the protest.

Here is a Brazilian explaining the general context very clearly:

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