2013 In Retrospect: The Year in which Brazil Went to the Street

The protesting mob messed with the parliament, the presidency, while the actions echoed in the international press.

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The end of the year 2013 was marked by flooding streets after heavy rains, a lot of work for the public security organs, and especially for the Brazilian politicians. In 2013, the Brazilian took to the streets in a protest against a 20 centavos (10 dollar cents) bus fare increase and turned into a big street fight for better public services and much more. The protesting mob messed with the parliament, the presidency and its actions echoed in the international press.

With the World Cup approaching, the news of hundreds of millions spent on football stadiums throughout Brazil coincided with some local governments announcing an increase in bus fares. In São Paulo, the rate would increase from BRL 3.00 to BRL 3.20 (USD 1.50 to 1.60), in Rio de Janeiro, from BRL 2.75 to BRL 2.95 (USD 1.38 to 1.48). The protests, and not anymore about bus fares, rapidly began to spread throughout Brazil on the eve of the Confederations Cup.

It all started peacefully:

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In the capitol Brasilia, the echoes of São Paulo and Rio reflected quickly. Demonstrations began with dozens of people and suddenly counted with thousands at the Esplanada dos Ministérios. The 17th of June marked one of the most iconic scenes in the history of the country: hundreds of young people took up the ramps and the domes of Congress crying for a better country as police watched and guarded the entrance.

Days later, thousands of youth and families packed the lawn in front of the Congress. About 30 thousand people with banners, flags and placards calling better health care, education and quality in public transport. It was a movement without a party – just ordinary people complaining about the treatment they underwent, screaming their problems, anxieties and needs. At this point, the Brazilian protesters appeared in newspapers around the world.

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In the streets, the police equipped themselves and prepared for the real battle. And this just happened in a few moments. Excesses on both sides occurred in several cities and clashes between police and protesters became the order of the day. It was common to talk about depredations, rubber bullets and tear gas. In the midst of this turmoil, the press recorded every detail while sometimes it was harassed by demonstrators and beaten by police.

At various moments, the Confederations Cup had to stand aside in this new routine of the country. The population guided the media and the protests for more investment in quality public services echoed in the Brazilian politics. While Congress debated the origin and purpose of everything that happened, President Dilma Rousseff was publicly praising the popular initiative and condemned the violence. “The protesters have the right and freedom to question and criticize everything. ( … ) By passionately defending their ideas and proposals, they must do so in a peaceful and orderly manner. Government and society can’t accept that a violent and authoritarian minority destroys public and private ( ..) assets”, she said at the time.

On occasion, Congress rehearsed political reforms, which not yet left the drawing-board. To be specific, only the increase of the bus fare was cancelled. Recently, lawmakers acknowledged that they have not met the popular appeal and political and electoral decisions have to be met in 2014, the year not only of the World Cup, but more importantly general elections.

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And is this the end? Certainly not! For me, personally, it feels as the silence before the storm. Don’t forget, indeed, it might be silent and quiet, but it is the time of Carnival. Wait what happens after that.
The Copa do Mundo (World Cup) will not be a quiet period. The battle is fougth, but the war is still on and everybody knows that.

And 2014 General Elections? Shouldn’t they kick start the demanded changes? I doubt it. The Brazilian amazingly tolerates an incredible amount of corruption in business and government. While all governments house corrupt officials, it is more common and rampant in Brazil than in most other countries, and yet … and yet the population continues to re-elect the same corrupt people. Election after election.

The text is based upon an article from Agência Brasil. All photos courtesy of G1/O Globo, if not otherwise specified.