With excitement in Syria, Turkey, and now Egypt filling the front pages of news sources, many may have missed the protests in Brazil. Protests started from a simple increase in bus fares and led to a massive show of discontent with the government and Brazil’s standard of living. The protests were mostly concentrated on the large class division in Brazil. Protesters compared the wealth surrounding the World Cup to the poverty in other areas of the nation.
However, Brazil’s protests are unique in many aspects. Unlike protests seen in the Arab Springs, the government has largely attempted to address the concerns of the people. This may come without much surprise with the history of the current party in power. The Worker Party’s is a center-left socialist party that has been in power since 2002. Despite Brazil having one of the largest wealth gaps in the world, conditions have improved greatly in the last decade. The Brazilian economy is the fastest growing in South America. In the last decade the minimum wage has been almost tripled. The number of people in the middle class has increased greatly such that over 50% of the country is now middle class. More money has been put toward education and health care. Yet protesters yell for more and, perhaps, rightly so. I wouldn’t say just because of the recent advances, the people of Brazil must be passive and content with their government. Now that they have seen what improvements can be made, they don’t want to stop there. Now that millions have been raised out of poverty, they expect their living conditions and government resources to match other developed countries.
Since the start of the protests, the Brazilian government has made promises and has attempted to introduce laws to meet the protesters demands. Unfortunately, what would otherwise be a constructive reaction by the government to the people, it is marred by the violence seen at the protests. Whether protesters were out of control or police demonstrated unnecessary brutality, deaths, and injuries have resulted, further angering the people.
The nature of the protests is more similar to the Occupy movement in North America. There is little to no leadership, many different goals, and conflicting ideologies. It is just the people voicing their displeasure. Another of the complaints against the government is the accusation of corruption in aiding continued income inequality and the waste of government money. The Worker Party has suffered from corruption scandals in the past resulting in resignations of government officials, so it is a problem they cannot deny exists. Corruption itself is said to exist at every level of government and results in large sums of money being stolen from tax payers. Taxes are already relatively high for the middle class compared to other Latin American countries and are another source of discontent. While income has increased, a higher amount of tax is being paid yet the healthcare and education lag behind.
The criticisms directed at the World Cup appear to be valid. Although I have no love of sports, I do recognize their value to a society and country that is known for their love of football. However the large sum of money, nearly 14 billion, which is being used to put on the event is extremely high for a country in Brazil’s position. In contrast, the United States spent around 5.6 billion USD last time they hosted the World Cup and in 2010 South Africa spent only 3 billion USD. So while hosting the World Cup may be justifiable by the economic gain from the event, the excessive spending of billions of dollars is unacceptable.
While the protests die down for now, the World Cup is soon approaching and we may see a resurgence if conditions don’t change. Hopefully, the politicians will not forget the promises they have made in the last few weeks and help push Brazil through even more developments as it begins to emerge as a world power.