Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ongoing Protests in Belo Horizonte

Paulo Whitaker/Reuters
Hi there!  I've been meaning to post all week, but well...I just didn't get to it.  The protests have continued, and not only is the world starting to take notice, but also the Brazilian government.  Here's how I sum up what's gone on.

There was a protest about a bus fair increase in São Paulo on June 13th, and the military police got very violent, and over 100 people were injured.  A lot of Brazilians were shocked at just how violent it got, and images went viral.  People then started protesting violence, bus fares, and but then they grew to include protesting government spending and political corruption, and now the main point is the corruption.  The Brazilian government didn't take these protests seriously, and then protesters started making things uncomfortable around the FIFA Confederations Cup games that have been taking place around Brazil.  A few of the soccer teams were afraid, and rumors were spreading that FIFA might cancel the games, and it might affect the World Cup.  I think this was when the Brazilian government realized that there was a problem.  The biggest news from Congress was that PEC-37, a proposal for constitutional reform that would have limited the ability to investigate officials.  I think that Brazilians are feeling heartened that there is actually some positive reaction to the protests.  And I think that there is still a lot of work to be done, and I still wonder what is actually going to come together.  There is need for lots of leadership.  And strong leadership.

How has all of this affected us personally?  I was a little nervous last Saturday, when Facebook was buzzing with invitations to the protests, and there were rumors of 100s of thousands of people turning out and trying to stop the game.  The protest in Belo Horizonte was by far the largest of the protests across Brazil that day (40,000), but we were no where near any of the protests.  I was actually able to drive across town with no problem, and then ended up taking Beatrice to a movie.  However, the protests did again turn violent when people got too close to the Minierão (soccer stadium), and police used tear gas and pepper spray.  I watched some videos at home late on Saturday, and I wept.  How could this be happening in our city?!?  Starting on Monday, protesters decided to take to the highways, and traffic in and out of the city was blocked.  My co-workers who work in Lagoa dos Ingleses couldn't go to work on Tuesday because the road was entirely blocked.  On Tuesday the Mayor declared it a holiday in Belo Horizonte.  All banks were closed, and all schools cancelled classes for  Wednesday (the day that Brazil was playing the semi-final game in our city).  The National Guard was sent in, but the protests were pretty mild that day.  My Wednesday classes got "rescheduled" for today and next Saturday.  The kids have school today.  I was pretty peeved initially about having to work Saturdays, but it is a small thing in the bigger fight for justice.  For the most part, the Brazilians I've spoken to are very supportive of the protests.  It seems that things have calmed down a bit (at least on the streets) and now the battle is figuring out just how to deal with the extensive corruption.  If you'd like to do some more extensive reading, I'd suggest these articles:

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