Brazil’s Protests: Not the Final Whistle
Like the participants of other spontaneous and evolving protest movements, Brazil’s demonstrators have arrived at a crossroads in terms of what they want and how they want to achieve it. This may partly explain the lull. In addition, with some of the original demands of São Paulo’s Free Fare Movement (MPL) accomplished last week and President Dilma Rousseff’s promise to invest $50m in city transport, dedicate oil royalties to education, draft in foreign doctors and pursue broad political reform, politicians may hope they have made some strides towards pacifying the unrest.
But continuing protests suggest that Brazilians want more. Controversial legislation such as a “gay cure” law and the PEC 37, a constitutional amendment which would severely limit the power of federal attorneys to investigate crimes within the legislature if passed next month, are garnering more attention. A planned general strike, promoted by the MPL and scheduled on Twitter and Facebook for the day after the Confederations Cup final on July 1st, could spell more disruption. Polls suggest that three-quarters of Brazilians back the protests. Ms Rousseff’s meeting with the MPL on June 24th looked like an attempt to bring the conversation off the streets and back into the political arena—a more comfortable battleground for Brazil’s leaders, who are under intense international scrutiny ahead of next year’s football World Cup, which is also due to take place in Brazil. Four people have died so far in the demonstrations.
Protesters have continued to use football matches as a focus for confrontations (despite the fact that polls show that about two-thirds of Brazilians support the Confederations Cup). On June 22nd in Belo Horizonte, more than 70,000 people chanted “The Cup for whom?” and small factions took the opportunity to loot shops during a game between Japan and Mexico. As the Confederations Cup enters its final week the question everyone is pondering is whether there is life for the protest movement after the football, or whether the demonstrations will come and go with the big sporting events. Either way, with the World Cup beginning in just under a year—and the Olympics coming to Rio two years later—Brazil’s leaders have reason to feel nervous.