A fellow Spring 2011 SASer, who is from Brazil, posted this to our group page:
I’m unsure about how the protests that are going on in Brazil have been broadcasted in the international media. They are highly relevant, however, so I make a strong point that you inform yourselves about what’s going on in my country – especially since both the World Cup and the Summer Olympics are being held here in the next few years.
The protests started in favor of better and cheaper public transportation in the largest cities of the country – Europeans will understand why this is important, but I make a point for my American friends: most people in Brazil rely heavily on public transportation. Since cars are 2-3 times more expensive in dollar terms here than in the US, and since our income per capita is roughly 20% of USA’s, public transportation is high up on the agenda here.
What was set to be a peaceful protest carried mainly by idealistic university students has become a near-civil-war scenario – mostly due to brutal and reckless police actions (watch the video to understand). Last thursday, around 20,000 people went out to the streets and what happened was the state injuring and punishing its people through the arms of the police force. Some facts to illustrate: 1) two injured civilians were forced out of the hospital by policemen to go to arrested without having committed a crime, 2) hundreds of people, including press members, were arrested for carrying vinegar, a legal chemical used for cooking as well as alleviating the effects of tear gas, 3) the police force trapped thousands of peaceful civilians from all sides in a big avenue in São Paulo and threw hundreds of tear gas grenades as well as shot them rubber bullets recklessly, without aiming, in an attempt not to disperse the protest (since there was no way out), but apparently to punish them and taming the citizens, 4) the police show tear gas into a citizen’s apartment – the citizen was filming their violent action, 5) a friend of mine who was trying to get out of the protest, due to police violence, was trapped by a few raged officers who were trying to hit him for no reason (luckily he was able to run away), 6) a press member was shot a rubber bullet in the eye, even after identifying herself as ‘big press’ – she is likely to lose her vision forever. There are hundreds more of happenings, I described a few that are documented by video, and therefore are absolutely true (most compiled in the video I posted).
At first the national press, which is largely very conservative, was blaming the protesters for a few isolated cases of destruction of public goods. They were very partial in their approach, clearly against the public manifestation. After last thursday, most of the national press clearly switched sides, possibly because press members were violently attacked by the police. Of course destroying public goods should be treated as a crime. Less than 1% of the protesters are violent, though. How about the 90% of police officers who are much more violent and are destroying the most important public good: its citizens?
I personally am not too touched by the public transport cause. I am touched, however, by citizens being seriously hurt and treated with disrespect by the public authorities they themselves elect. They are being attacked for exercising their most fundamental right, the right to speak up for their issues. A right that is theoretically guaranteed by Brazilian constitution, by the way.
Brazilian ‘Militar Police’, the Police that is attacking its citizens was formed during the dictatorship that took place in the 60s, 70s and 80s in this country. The United Nations have recently recommended Brazil to shut down this Militar Police, because it’s so violent. For a quick comparison, it kills more people per year in São Paulo then the whole United States police kills. São Paulo has 10 million people, while the US has 300 million people. There are other kinds of police force in this country that could be used for civil order (one known example is the UPP, a police force successfully used in Rio to keep the ‘favelas’ peaceful).
My fellows, I urge you to share this video and my commentaries with all your friends. My intent with this is to raise international awareness of the issue. International awareness is important for political pressure, as well as because of the huge numbers of foreigners that are going to be in Brazil during the World Cup and the Summer Olympics. More than that, awareness is important so that there’s no more human rights abuses.