Brazil: Government Corruption Sends Thousands To The Streets In Protest

RIOTens of thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of Brazil’s biggest cities on Monday in a growing protest that is tapping into widespread anger at poor public services, police violence and government corruption.

The marches, organized mostly through snowballing social media campaigns, blocked streets and halted traffic in more than a half-dozen cities, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia, where demonstrators swarmed past the Congress and Presidential Palace.

While peaceful, and unfolding mostly as a festive display of dissent, Monday’s demonstrations were the latest in a flurry of protests over the past two weeks that have added to unease over Brazil’s sluggish economy, high inflation and a spurt in violent crime.

The marches began this month with a small protest in Sao Paulo against a small increase in bus and subway fares. The demonstrations initially drew the scorn of many middle-class Brazilians after protesters vandalized storefronts, subway stations and buses on one of the city’s main avenues.

But the movement quickly gained support and spread to other cities as police used heavy-handed tactics to try to quell the demonstrations. The biggest crackdown happened on Thursday in Sao Paulo when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas in clashes that injured more than 100 people, including 15 journalists, some of whom said they were deliberately targeted.

PROTESTSThe protests have gathered pace as Brazil is hosting the soccer Confederation’s Cup, a dry run for next year’s World Cup. The government hopes these events, along with the 2016 Summer Olympics, will showcase the country as an emerging power on the global stage.

Brazil is also gearing up to welcome more than 2 million visitors in July as Pope Francis makes his first foreign trip for a gathering of Catholic youth in Rio.

Contrasting the billions in public money spent on new stadiums with the shoddy state of Brazil’s public services, protesters are using the Confederation’s Cup as a counterpoint to amplify their concerns. The tournament got off to shaky start this weekend when police clashed with demonstrators outside stadiums at the opening matches in Brasilia and Rio.
“We shouldn’t be spending public money on stadiums,” said one protester in Sao Paulo who identified herself as Camila, a 32-year-old travel agent. “We don’t want the Cup. We want education, hospitals, a better life for our children.”

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