The Brazilian Street: Powers of Change


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July 09, 2014 00:18 EDT

With a government that has misled its people, Brazilians themselves can be the drivers of change if they are united.

The FIFA World Cup will draw to a close on July 13, while Brazilians feel a mixture of emotions. What I see today on social media is that many, many Brazilians are still angry. No, they are not only upset that Brazil was humiliated by Germany in the semi-finals. Rather, Brazilians are still against the World Cup and they hold President Dilma Rousseff and her government to account.

Some may say we need to stop protesting as the World Cup will not suddenly be stopped, while others argue we should “fix the situation” in the next elections. I don’t agree with either of these options and here’s why.

First, to solely blame the incumbent government is to blame ourselves. I would like to stress here that any Brazilian political party in power would have agreed to host the World Cup at the blink of an eye. It wouldn’t have mattered if it was a right- or left-wing party in office as year after year, election after election, nothing really changes — apart from modest reforms to mask rampant corruption.

Indeed, some parties are less corrupt than others but, at the end of the day, they are all the same. I don’t believe our vote will change anything; as a Brazilian, I stopped voting a long time ago. I do believe there are politicians who genuinely want to make a change and work for the people, as they are supposed to. However, these same politicians often get wrapped up in corruption and don’t last in office for very long — if they even manage to get there.

Most, if not all, political parties in Brazil have only one goal: to get rich and not die trying. They make terrible decisions and the people have to bear the brunt — decisions that only a handful benefit from, including companies and politicians. Corruption is still a major problem in Brazil and the World Cup has showed to what extent.

So here is a little food for thought for those who say we need to “fix the situation” in the next election: nothing will be solved. The Olympics will be held in Brazil in 2016 and we might have a new government by then. But do you really think this “new” government will stop or cancel the games? Will it be any different to governments of the past? With so much to gain amid endless corruption at the state level, there is a near zero chance of such an outcome.

Second, for those who want protests to stop as they believe Brazil’s image will suffer on the international stage, I must say: What will be bad for our country is to accept in silence the government’s corruption and mishandling of state funds. It will look bad for us, as a nation, to be apolitical.

Most, if not all, political parties in Brazil have only one goal: to get rich and not die trying. They make terrible decisions and the people have to bear the brunt. 

Yes, I believe protests can make a change all over the world. There are protests daily across the planet. Why? Because, with enough passion and struggle, they work. Whichever way you look at it, protesting is still an effective tool of holding a government to account and Brazil is no different. Marching down the street, holding banners and chanting for what we see as a government that misleads its people is our right as Brazilians. Taking a leaf out of the Arab world, the proverbial Brazilian street is where the true power of change lies. We are the powers of change.

If we, the Brazilian people, believe in the amount of power that we hold when united by the same goal, we could be the power that changes our society. However, if we continue to be divided, then successive governments will carry on with what they know best: deceit and corruption.

I work with social media and use it in my personal life, and what I see is that Brazilians are more divided than ever before. Not just in their thoughts but also in their feelings. Some are proud that Brazil is hosting the World Cup and want to be part of it, even if this means working as volunteers for the corruption-plagued FIFA. Others are ashamed. They are embarrassed by our half-built stadiums, chaotic traffic and poor public transport, and that hundreds of thousands of tourists have seen the real Brazil.

Aside from spiraling crime rates, poor wages and high inflation, tourists will undoubtedly have seen children who are too poor to attend school. They will have seen hospitals with a severe lack of equipment, including basic necessities such as beds. Moreover, tourists will have driven on unfinished roads, which often see pothole after pothole. Yes, the government can spend $11.5 billion on the World Cup, but they must had an empty wallet when it came to spending money on education, health care and transport.

If we really want to hold mega sporting events, we must start by giving our people what they need and deserve. We must respect each other, help one another and work together. Only then can we showcase what Brazil has to offer to the world.

*[The byline of this article has been changed at the author’s request for safety reasons. Updated: August 24, 2018.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Will Rodrigues /


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9 years ago

If it is supposedly an inspiration, has the author actually checked what the outcome of the “Arab spring” has been, anywhere it occurred?

Be very careful what you wish for: Egypt: Dictatorship, mass execution, incarceration. Libya: A decimated failed state. Syria: Civil war, country in ruins, and so on.
The continuing reference to the Arab spring demonstrates an unfortunate political naivety in what is left of last year’s Brazilian protests.

99% of Brazilians are too smart to go along with these protests, and since last June the numbers quickly dropped to single figure thousands, by 2014, often not even that.

They have a higher standard of living than at any time in history, and the last 20 years have brought unprecedented improvements for the poor.
The upper classes have not seen that rate of improvement, and therefore are the origin of most complaint.

This article also makes the oft-repeated, and fallacious inference that the cost of the world cup is somehow related to health & education, or roads.
To be clear that $11 billion dollars was the total cost of the project, over 7 years, including new airports & infrastructure.

This is in the context of a $431bn annual budget for Health, Education & Urban Mobility.

Yes, so the total cost of the World Cup over 7 years, including the new infrastructure, airports etc, is equivalent to ONE MONTH of Brazil’s Education budget alone.
There are all kinds of problems, but that was never a significant one, it was a distraction, a catchy slogan for social media.

Street protests without very specific goals and clear messages rarely, if ever, deliver anything constructive, at worst they are counterproductive.
Without clear messages & goals, someone, somewhere, will decide what the narrative is, and those present are pulled along with that, whatever their intent as they took to the street.

Be under no illusion that images of burning on Brazilian streets has massively discouraged foreign investment & involvement in the country.
That is of course caused by a small minority, but unfortunately the media will pick only those images to use. This is a major strategic flaw.

Sending thousands out to the streets with vague slogans of “Change” or against “Corruption” when nobody really knows what that means and are selective in where they choose to see it, is futile. Meanwhile, very organised, very direct protests by groups like MTST and Public Sector unions have delivered on specific goals. These protests are evidently constructive.

If Brazil wants to improve its democracy it needs to also look at breaking up the media monopolies, from which much of the partisan criticism of the current Federal government comes.

There also needs to be greater distinction and understanding of State & Federal powers. It is not sufficient to just refer to “Government”, when States run most of the services the public complain about, and yet at national level, almost all of the focus is on PT whereas PMDB are the most corrupt party in the ruling coalition – a remnant chunk of intransigent dictatorship-era power that needs to be broken down if reforms are ever to occur.

Although well meaning, these kind of articles appearing in English, for the benefit of foreigners, are not actually shedding much additional light on the complexities of Brazil.

There are all kinds of problems some unique to Brazil, most not, but attempts to involve the world in them with juvenile hashtag politics, as if Brazil can’t solve these on its own, are a insult to Brazilian democracy.

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