Protests in Brazil – A new Era?

For the first time in her presidency, Dilma’s popularity shows signs of weakness. It happened before the bus-fare protests around the country and the next polls will certainly show another round of negative view of the president.

As most people here is saying, it’s not just about a R$ 0,20 raise (around 10 cents of dollar) of the public transportation fare; it’s far beyond it.  Brazil’s history is fulfilled with a long series of mistakes since its foundation, and corruption became a painful stigma.

Not only that, Brazilian people is well known for a strong passive-aggressive behavior, i.e., everyone knows the problems, the origin of the problems, the solution for the problems, but only complains about it, without proactiveness.  The mottoes “It will never change” or even “it’s normal in Brazil” were used to describe this passiveness since the country became a republic.

But something has changed. In the last 20 years, there was a series of important transformations  in the country, and most of them are related to the income. Since the end of inflation, in an ongoing process, more Brazilians have access to consumption, to credit, to sanitation, to housing and finally, to higher education.

However, these changes did not happen as a whole. Unlike the income improvement; education, transportation, medical assistance, security and several other public areas worsened. The access to higher education happened due to the increase of new and cheaper private colleges and universities, a very profitable business in Brazil.

Larceny is one of the crimes that most rapidly grew on several Brazilian states and rape is already affecting the tourism on several cities as Rio.

Brazilians lost their sense of justice, since laws here are benevolent to the criminals and minors are considered to be unimputable.

It is a violent country, where mayors and governors reduce investments in education, making here one of the worst performers globally in the area. People die waiting on a line for medical assistance and still, investments in health care diminish intensively every year. Public transportation is too expensive, unsafe and worsens the traffic problem in big cities such as Sao Paulo, since people avoid using it and opt for cars.

To make it worst, government has redefined social classes’ criteria in Brazil and now says if each family member makes above 2,400 reais a month (around 1,200 USD), they are among the 5 percent richest. That’s right, no jokes here. If a family of three makes around 3,600 USD a month, the government says it’s a rich family.

Obviously, this is a smokescreen to rise up people from poverty to the middle class without making any efforts for a real change.  

But now, after all these years, with more educated people, Brazilians seem to awake from a long torpor and rise to the so necessary changes.

The protests against the hike in the bus-fare are only the beginning. People need to get rid of the passive-aggressive label (reminding that this label is used amongst Brazilians) and start to fight for their rights.

We are far from a “Spring” or something, since the scenario is completely different from that in the Arab countries, but it’s the hope that politicians are no longer in a comfort zone procrastinating the necessary changes for the country.

Brazil has problems on taxes, infrastructure, education, poverty, corruption, justice, public money misuse, productivity, interest rates, to mention a few.

And now people are tending not to tolerate that suddenly, with so many problems, the government finds tons and tons of money (around 30 billion USD) to build World Cup Stadiums.

These can be times of change and great hope, but the government has ways to weaken the movement (like pulling back on the R$0,20 toll hike) and the protests leaders do not have a broader agenda, refusing to bring up some of the problems mentioned above.

I could be more optimistic, but these events will not change the roles in the political play and the upcoming election has still 16 months to happen. The good thing is, politicians will have to discuss a considerable amount of these issues very soon, or else…

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Jason Vieira é o Editor-Chefe e Diretor Geral da MoneYou e executivo sênior da X-Infinity Invest. Com mais de 20 anos de mercado, já ocupou cargos de estrategista, CIO, economista-chefe e analista internacional em instituições como Apregoa.com, UpTrend Advisors, GRC Visão, KGP, CM Capital Markets, Sanwa Bank, CLSA, JP Morgan, Santander, entre outras. Economista formado pela Universidade Mackenzie, possui diversas extensões de mercado financeiro e economia, com forte foco internacional.
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