Fears: Echoes of the Dictatorship
In some of the protest coverage, Brazil has been sometimes referred to a young democracy with growing pains. Indeed, Brazil's most recent stretch of democratic rule is less than 30 years old, like many of the protesters. And there are those who worry that with young protesters with no memories of the 1964-1985 dictatorship, there could be a risk of a right-wing uprising.
While this could seem far-fetched to the foreign observer, some are worried that the emergence of elements from the far right at this week's protests are just one of several worrisome echoes of the dictatorship during the protests.
First, people are concerned about the adoption of nationalistic symbols, including the flag and the national anthem, since these were also used by the dictatorship. There's concern about Globo's sea change in protest coverage, going from critical to laudatory. The country's largest media conglomerate actually suspended airing of the sacrosanct novelas earlier this week to show the protests live. The swift change also raised alarm bells, since Globo had, in the past, lied about large demonstrations on television, including the Direitas Já movement (it said people were celebrating the anniversary of São Paulo's founding).
There's also concern about the supposed non-partisan nature of the protests and the hostility toward political parties at some of the protests. There have been calls, even in Brasília, to end political parties. And a Facebook event to hold a nationwide strike on July 1 also raised red flags, as the organizer could have ties to the far right.An image floated around social media this week showing leaders' faces crossed off, noting the order of succession needed to make the popular Supreme Court President Joaquim Barbosa president of the country. In fact, a poll found that 30 percent of São Paulo protesters would vote for Barbosa, the largest percentage of any other potential candidate.
Given all of these concerns, a few want the protests to end. A Tumblr, "Go Back to Sleep, Brazil," shows images of protesters with some extreme views, like those who think the poor shouldn't vote or those in favor of another military dictatorship.
Hopes: Getting Youth Politically Involved
One potential positive outcome would be a youth engaged in politics who know how to protest. The problem with the current protests, as Juliana Cunha wrote on Friday, is that is not the case. An Ibope poll released today found that over half of the protesters at the June 20 demonstrations were students, and 46 percent of protesters had never participated in a demonstration before. Maybe, some hope, these youth will learn how peaceful demonstrations with specific goals can lead to change. Getting young people more politically involved could also mean for thinking harder when they vote; in Brazil, voting is mandatory.
At the moment, the protests have become "cool" and are largely organized through social media, one of several reasons why so many Brazilians took to the streets in the last week. If this type of political participation catches on, it could potentially change how Brazilians interact with the government and demand accountability and stronger rule of law. "It is the voice from the streets...that will lead to the strengthening of our judiciary," wrote Congressman Romário for The Guardian.
Fueling the Protests: Police Repression and Social Tensions
There are a wide variety of reasons Brazilians have for protesting, including corruption and government spending on mega-events, as well as a stagnated quality of life and poor public services amid rising salaries and a growing middle class. "Without a doubt, life in Brazil has improved a lot in the past two decades," Brazilian philosopher Paulo Arantes told Estado de São Paulo today. "However, no one can take it anymore."
That said, protesters' demands won't be met overnight, and the president's speech on Friday--pre-recorded and aired 24 hours after the massive demonstrations on Thursday--didn't seem to convince anyone. A survey released Saturday found that 75 percent of Brazilians support the protests.
So what could fuel large numbers of people to continue taking to the streets?
The first is continued vandalism and police repression. Because of acts of violence by people at the protests, police gained a political rationale to use force. However, they've been also been using it against peaceful protesters and complete bystanders, thus fueling anger from the public. But vandalism is also scaring people, so the cycle could continue.
Another issue is class tensions; as I wrote earlier in the week, there is some evidence of this at the protests. There's still some chatter calling the protesters "bourgois." And though the socioeconomic makeup of protesters has expanded to some extent--around 45 percent of Thursday's protesters make less than US$1,500 a month--the class tensions could still be there. Many of the protesters are middle class, or even upper class. Could it be that some members of the military police, who are largely working class, are taking pleasure in gunning down "playboys" and wealthier members of the middle class with rubber bullets and tear gas?
At the same time, the protests could also provide a pretext for cops to crack down on favela residents, and to blame them for the source of vandalism and violence at the protests. This morning, members of São Paulo's SWAT team killed three people in a favela after a military policeman was shot during a protest nearby. If this type of favela violence is framed in the context of surpressing vandalism, it may not face much of a public outcry.