Jun 24, 2013
On June 10th, demonstrations broke out across Brazil against the plan to increase public transit fares. There were 100,000 demonstrators in Rio de Janeiro, 60,000 in Sao Paulo and thousands more in many other cities, despite fierce police attacks in Rio and Sao Paulo. Anti-riot police used clubs, tear gas grenades and rubber bullets, wounding more than 100.
One week later, even larger demonstrations swept Brazil’s cities. About a million people were estimated to be out protesting on June 21st, the largest protests since 1992 demonstrations forced out a corrupt president.
The increase in already high transportation fares is what unleashed popular anger. In Sao Paulo, the price of a subway ticket rose to $1.48, with similar fare increases in other cities. Supposedly the Brazilian government has now rolled back these fare increases. But demonstrators still protest, and still face off against politicians promising more police repression.
Brazil’s cities grew enormously in the 1950s and 1960s, as did the number of cars on the roads. Railroads are almost non-existent and the subway systems are only beginning to expand. Bus companies are privately owned, extracting high profits from commuters while pocketing fat subsidies from the cities and national governments. The mayor of Sao Paul recently authorized buses to carry 75 passengers, although they were made for 65. The buses didn’t get any bigger! They will simply pack in more passengers. The politicians give the bus companies whatever they ask for, since the companies give big contributions to their election campaigns.
Although Brazilians usually love soccer, and are supposed to host the World Cup next year, protesters pointed out that Brazil needs better schools, not new stadiums. In addition, the Olympics come to Brazil in 2016, so the government would like to silence all protests and sweep the roads clean not only of beggars but of protesters.
In truth, this country of 200 million people desperately needs schools and spending on health care, housing and infrastructure – not 15 billion dollars spent for the World Cup. No wonder the demonstrators also protested poverty, inflation and corruption, because public works profit only the rich. Millions remain in desperate poverty.
Watching these protests, we see the capitalists and politicians get a taste of what they deserve.