The month of June seems to me to be the month of the protestor. Major protests have already occurred in Turkey, leading to a rather unnecessarily violent backlash by the authorities and now we are witnessing powerful displays of civilian anger in Brazil. Whilst I do not think it will quite have the same significance as in 2011 when the Arab Spring brought down regimes in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and rattled several more to the core, the protests in Brazil at the moment are no less serious. One year out from the F.I.F.A. World Cup, the show case of football at its finest and with Rio de Janeiro due to host the Olympics in 2016 it is worthwhile examining who the protestors are and why the protests are occurring.
Brazil is the largest country in Latin America by population, and by land mass as well as cultural diversity. The 190 million people who call Brazil home live mainly in large urban areas such as Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia. The country has significant petroleum and mineral wealth, but also vast ecological treasures in the Amazon basin which completely dominates the hydrology of Brazil. It’s indigenous peoples include the Waorani people of Amerindian ancestry, though the country also has significant Spanish and Portugese and multiracial ethnic groups as well.
Significant economic development projects are under way in Brazil which is a regional power in Latin America. It is the third largest civilian aircraft manufacturing nation in the world and has major petroleum projects along its coastline and deep in the Amazon basin. Hydro electricity is a significant source of electricity with large controversial projects that will flood significant parts of the basin being planned.
But the major economic drivers over the next few years will be Brazil hosting two major sporting events. The first is the F.I.F.A. World Cup around a years time, for which 3.3 million tickets are expected to go on sale starting on 20 August 2013. For a nation that has produced Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho among other outstanding players this is an outstanding of opportunity to show case the very best of Brazil.
The second and biggest is the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. This will be held in Rio de Janeiro and are scheduled to occur between 05 August and 21 August 2016. The billions of television hours spent by people around the world watching the games, and the massive resultant publicity that is expected to be generated will be felt for years to come.
So, one might think that Brazil just about has it all in the near future, and perhaps it does. But one thing protestors on the streets do not think that it has is transparency. To many Brazil is corrupt and some of the economic statistics reflect it. According to Transparency International, the level of corruption in Brazil is thought to be somewhere on a scale of 0-100 around 40-49. People at the protests have given their reasons for attending as corruption of various departments of government responsibility such as health. Others have mentioned the lack of accountability over major projects and still more want to know why the Government is spending billions on the World Cup and the Olympics, but either cannot or will not met the needs of the citizens.
As these protests evolve, I am sure we are going to hear a lot more about them.