Brazil is currently experiencing the most intense and widespread protests for a generation. The mainstream media has been largely silent over the last week as street demonstrations have grown in response to police attacks against peaceful protestors.The state has deployed huge numbers of riot police using rubber bullets, tear gas and batons in an effort to intimidate protesters and drive them off the streets. This strategy has backfired, on Monday night the protests swelled to hundreds of thousands of people in eight major cities including Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Belem, Belo Horizonte and Salvador. Sources even saying that there are over million people on the streets across the country. Commentary, videos and photos have exploded across social networks such as Twitter and Facebook and finally the international media has sprung into action. The Guardian is reporting that the protests are 'some of biggest the country has ever seen' and Reuters claiming that they are the 'biggest protests in 20 years'.
|A reflection on the side of a building of the river of protesters in Sao Paulo.|
This mass uprising has been triggered in part by a bus fare rise of 20 cents which many say is the last straw in a spiral of high costs and persistently poor public services. This is contrasted by the immense amounts of funding that have been allocated to international sports events being hosted in Brazil; the 2014 Football World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Government corruption has been called into question following a decision by ministers to give themselves a three month pay bonus, putting family members on the government payroll and showing no leadership in times of economic, environmental and social crisis.
Indigenous rights are central to the what is manifesting on the streets. There is growing anger that people are being evicted from their homes in the lead up to the 2014 Football World Cup. On the 30th May, police killed an indigenous Terena protestor and wounded several others while evicting them from their ancestral land. These attacks coincided with the release of a controversial report into the state sanctioned murder and land dispossession of indigenous people in the 1960s.
Av. Rio Branco on Monday night (17/06/2013)
Social media has once again played a critical role in getting people out onto the streets; in Sao Paulo banners read 'We come from Facebook'. People from all walks of life are showing their justified anger at the current system. Families from the favelas who suffer the indignity of living in persistent, structural poverty, people totally excluded from mainstream society. Low wage earners who can't afford to eat let alone participate in consumer society. Working professionals such as teachers who get paid only slightly more than the abysmally low minimum wage. University graduates who have no confidence that jobs even exist for them. Skilled workers who have been made redundant in the economic crisis. Literally thousands upon thousands of angry young people who feel that their future is being stolen from under them. In Sao Paulo protesters marched on the governor's palace, in Rio they surrounded the state legislature building and in Brasilia they are occupying the National Congress.
|Protesters occupying the National Congress in Brasilia|
Brazil has arguably the strongest economy in Latin america but also has some of the highest levels of inequality in the world. What happens now will influence social movement everywhere. There is no going back, the only choice is to push forwards. This is an indigenous struggle, a working class struggle and an environmental struggle. In cities across Brazil there is writing on the wall, it says, 'Revolution', 'Down with the government' and 'Fuck the Police'.
It is hard to predict when something will ignite mass mobilisations but one thing's certain, the struggle in Brazil is the same one we face here in Aotearoa. The parallels are obvious; a rising cost of living, stagnating wages, increasinging unemployment, structural poverty and marginalisation from society, a non functioning public transport system, a history of land theft and the terrorising of indigenous communities. In neighbourhoods like Glen Innes we see people being evicted from their homes to make way for the rich. You only have to look at the National party to see a corrupt government that funds sports events instead of deal with social problems. Our common enemy is neo-liberal capitalism.
Members of Auckland's Brazilian community have organised a Solidarity protest in Albert park at 2pm on Saturday the 22nd June. There are already over 1800 people attending on facebook. Here we have an opportunity for community figures, indigenous rights leaders, trade union organisers, environmental activists, workers and students to re-energise the social movements that have been developing over the last few years. None of us can afford to miss an opportunity to advance the fight for our future.
See you in Albert park on Saturday.
Shane Malva - S.A.