Note from BW of Brazil: Let me just state for the record that I see these protests as misguided, lacking in critical thinking, manipulated with a serious denial of privilege and probably a sham. Why? Numerous reasons. First, let’s remember nearly two years ago when millions of Brazilians took to the streets principally against President Dilma. Although there were a number of issues that people protested against, the last straw that set off the protests were the 15 and 20 centavo (cent) increases in public transportation fees. I wondered then how it seemed that millions of people just popped up into the streets out of nowhere suddenly.
Fast forward to January 2015 and the announcement in São Paulo that public transportation wouldn’t increase 20 centavos and not 30 centavos but 50 centavos! In Rio de Janeiro in December, the increase was 40 centavos while in Belo Horizonte it was 25 centavos (1). In Goiânia, the capital and largest city of the state of Goiás, the increase was 50 centavos while in the federal capital the increase was 18.39%. In most cases substantially more than the modest increases announced in 2013. While there were a few protests that drew small crowds, there was no repeat of June-July of 2013 when millions hit the streets for several weeks. Hmmm, sounds like a staged event to me.
The second thing that sticks out to me is how people seem to believe that corruption is more inherent to a given political party than another. As the Brazilian government has been led by the PT (Workers’ Party) for the past 12 years, when unrest and scandal hit, naturally the call is for the ouster of the party in power. This was the battle cry in the 2013 protests as it was during the recent 2014 elections that saw strong support for the Tucano (PSDB) candidate Aécio Neves. These same people seem to ignore that it was a Tucano president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002), whose government was the most corrupt in the past 20 years! I don’t write this because I’m a fan of either party. The point is, politicians are corrupt in general! It’s part of the game but people still fall for the “us vs. them” mentality every four years or so. Ridiculous.
The third issue here is the deafening silence of large crowds when the issue is the murder rates of the nation, particularly affecting the black population at the hands of Military Police and death squads. Murder rates in Brazil are equal to the numbers of a country at war and the latest bloodbath in Salvador, Bahia, was just the most recent in long line of police murder sprees. Where are the mass protests over that? The article below also points to the backlash factor against gains of the Afro-Brazilian population due to affirmative action policies that have led to economic gains over the past decade. As a recent study by a social scientist showed, the same people white people that acknowledge that they have privileges based on race that often times can be traced back to European immigration policies of the late 19th century will quickly reject affirmative action because, as the overused cliché goes, “nós somos todos iguais” (we are all equal). Little wonder that the crowds in the streets, like the fans in the stands of the 2014 World Cup held in Brazil, are also overwhelmingly white. One has to wonder how anyone could possibly think all Brazilians aren’t treated equal!
Defenders of impeachment are white
By Maria Carolina Trevisan
These people have never been to the streets to demonstrate for the right to life,’ says Jorge X, militant of the Movimento Negro in Salvador, ‘because the life cut short, in its majority, is the black population, which doesn’t sensitize them’
The black population was not part of the acts of March 15. Among the approximately 1 million demonstrators – according to PM (Military Police), or 210,000, according to Datafolha – Avenida Paulista in São Paulo, and six thousand, on the edge of Barra in Salvador (Bahia), there were very few blacks. Whereas the vast majority (76.3%) of the Bahian population is black and that the state of São Paulo concentrates 34.6% black, the demonstrations against President Dilma were not representative. The explanation is obvious: policies specifically associated with that part of Brazilians – 51% of the population – were not even considered.
“The main objective of the demonstrations of March 15 does not address the concerns of the black community,” explains sociologist Marcelo Arouca, 34, a founder of the Núcleo de Estudantes Negros (Black Student Center) of the Federal University of Bahia. The small number of blacks in the Sunday protests shows something even more serious. What brought so many people onto the streets is also a reaction to the achievements of the black movement in the last 10 years, such as labor rights of maids and the adoption of quotas in federal universities.
“These policies bother the white elite. The same people who were making demands yesterday are those who have got rich at the expense of black slavery and that don’t conform themselves to the minimum reparation from the state,” said Arouca.
To minimize the representative imbalance among protesters on Sunday, organizers made sure to position the few blacks who participated in the act. It would be a way of trying to make up for what was explicit: the demand for fighting corruption is a common agenda for anyone, but it does not reflect the wishes of the most repressed and disadvantaged segments of Brazilian society. These demands will continue outside of the agenda if it depends on the motivation of those who protested on Sunday.
“As the black population had access to consumer goods, the elite – who always had privileges – claimed the elite position,” said Jorge X, militant of the Movimento Negro (black movement) of Bahia and the server of the public defender of the state. “On the other hand, what most amazes me is that life is the most precious thing there is. Even so, these people have never been to the streets to demonstrate for the right to life,” adds Jorge, which is against corruption and critical to the current government. “For the life cut short, for the most part, is (a thing) of the black population, which doesn’t sensitize (anyone).”
The debt of Brazil to the black community has yet to be repaired. Continuing as persecution during the dictatorship and persisting in the violent practices against young black men, about 70% of homicide victims in the country. Proof of this is the report released by the State Commission of Truth of São Paulo last Thursday, March 12th, which is adamant: “The poor and black population is affected until the present day with practices set up during the period of the dictatorship.”
The CEV (Comissão Estadual da Verdade or State Commission of Truth) Rubens Paiva recommends that “the Brazilian State recognize and apologize for the persecution of the black population, not only during the period of the dictatorship in the country, but also for the years of slavery and oppression up to the present day; that the State recognizes the abuses against blacks and repress them a guarantee of equality and democracy; that the memory of the resistance of the black population against the dictatorship is valued and its militants are honored.”
1. See the “Capitais brasileiras registram aumento nas tarifas de ônibus desde o fim de 2014” by Ana Cristina Campos and Yara Aquino in Agência Brasil, January 6, 2015.