Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Brazil's biggest cities throughout Monday evening, punctuating a week's worth of protests that started with students in São Paulo pushing back against a bus-fare hike. The fare increase was a trigger for young Brazilians who, despite living in one of the richest countries in the world, feel like they have nothing to show for it.
And they're right.
The scenes continuing to emerge from Rio to Brasilia and back again are not entirely unlike what we've seen in Turkey of late, and like the fight over Taksim Square that morphed into a bigger, more vocal argument against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the protests in Brazil over one daily price increase have transformed into a passionate protest against government corruption, tear gas and all.
Here's a stunning photo from the scene in Rio de Janeiro:
That doesn't do justice to the number of people who came out, though. This Vine does:
And so does this video:
This was the scene in Belem:
A shot from São Paulo:
What you have to remember is that Brazil is rich. In 2012, the country overtook the U.K. as the sixth largest economy in the world, The Guardian reported in March. And Brazil is considered a "natural resource superpower" by Bloomberg News because of its supplies of iron ore, hydroelectric power, deepwater oil, and aluminum. But with all those numbers and its international clout, Brazil's people still have hardly seen everything add up in their daily lives.
"The per capita income of Brazilians remains less than a third of that enjoyed in the UK at $11,000 (£7,000) per head," reads the same Guardian report. And the Associated Press explains that "about 40 million Brazilians have moved into the middle class" in the last decade, meaning that many more people want better standards of living from the government. And on top of that, the country's once powerful economy seems to be slowing down. Brazil logged a 2.7 increase GDP in 2011 — its second-worst performance since 2003, Bloomberg reported, and 2012 was even worse for the country as it registered a 0.9 percent growth despite becoming the sixth biggest economy on the planet. Keep in mind that Brazil will be hosting the World Cup and the Olympics soon, which involves spending lots and lots of money.
Now, this week's protest is all about corruption. The people living in Brazil, a country that's pretty well-off, feel like the government is the reason they're not seeing the tangible benefits of the broader economic prosperity. Corruption is a broad term, obviously, but here are the popular complaints pointed out by a Redditor living in Brazil:
Those sentiments highlight what protesters told the AP: "We don't have good schools for our kids. Our hospitals are in awful shape. Corruption is rife. These protests will make history and wake our politicians up to the fact that we're not taking it anymore!" one woman said. World Cup costs are a frequent complaint on the ground as well.
Those complaints moved hundreds of thousands to come out in cities like Rio, São Paulo, and Brasilia. There are also complaints, again not unlike those in Turkey, of police using violence to quell non-violent protesters and supplemental complaints of the media covering up the harsh actions of the authorities. A video here shows police firing various things — reportedly rubber bullets, and tear gas — at protesters. This video purportedly shows that kind of severe police violence.... (Warning: graphic.)
"São Paulo state officials promised on Monday that police wouldn't be armed with rubber bullets," reported The Wall Street Journal. President Dilma Rousseff has instructed the government not to confront protesters. "Peaceful demonstrations are legitimate and part of democracy. It is natural for young people to demonstrate," Rousseff said,