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Inside Story Americas

Brazil: Protests of discontent

Have poor public services, high prices and corruption pushed the Brazilian public over the edge?

Last Modified: 19 Jun 2013 08:45
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Tens of thousands of protesters sweep through Brazil's largest cities over poor public services, high prices and corruption. With more demonstrations expected, we unpack the reasons behind the discontent.

It is also about transparency and the fundamental structures of Brazilian democracy ... and while we have seen a lot of material improvements in Brazilian society in the last 10 years, we haven't seen any fundamental structural changes and people are fed-up with this.

Christopher Gaffney, an academic and investigative journalist

Protests of this size have not been seen in Brazil for decades. In Sao Paulo an estimated 50,000 people participated in Tuesday's demonstration. The protests began two weeks ago sparked by a rise in bus fares, but as the protests have grown so have the grievances.

Many say they are fed up with government corruption and poor services, as the nation spends billions to prepare for the World Cup. A heavy-handed response from the police has led to even more protests.

Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's president, issued a conciliatory statement on Tuesday telling the protesters that their demands are being heard:

"There has been a surge in the number of people who want more, who have the right to more. We are facing new challenges. The people who took to the streets yesterday are asking for more citizenship, better health, better education, more opportunities. I guarantee you that my government also wants more and we will get more for our country and our people."

According to a survey released on Monday by the Datafolha Institute suggests that 84 percent of the protesters polled said they had no preference in political parties, 77 percent of them are college graduates and about one quarter are current students.

More than half of them are under the age of 25, and for three-quarters of them, Monday was the first time they took part in a protest.

The main reason those surveyed gave for taking to the streets was a more than six percent increase in the cost of public transportation.

Some 40 million people have moved out of poverty into the middle class over the last decade. So how did a rising economic power create such discontent?

Inside Story Americas with Shihab Rattansi discusses with guests: Christopher Gaffney, an academic and an investigative journalist, he is also the author of the book Temples of the Earthbound Gods; Joao Castro Neves, a Latin America analyst with the Eurasia group; and Dave Zirin, the author of the book Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down. He is also the sports correspondent for The Nation magazine.

"There is a deeper story going on here, although it started with one single movement of students, at the end of the day this is a story, that not only in Brazil, but leaders of other Latin American nations are also facing - basically the rise of the middle class that needs to be qualified but also a middle class that demands more from political leaders ... it's a quality of life agenda."

- Joao Castro Neves, a Latin America analyst

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