J. D. Heyes
June 27, 2013
Liberty and freedom remain under assault in America as the federal leviathan grows ever larger and its appetite for power more voracious, but in Brazil, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets with one simple message for their leaders: We deserve better.
Brazilians certainly pay for better government; the underlying message behind the rising number of public protests there is that citizens “are weighed down by high taxes and high prices but get low-quality public services and a system of government infected with corruption,” The Associated Press reported.
The imbalance between cost and quality of service erupted in the form of mass demonstrations in early June after they were called for by an organization that is upset over the rising costs of the nation’s lousy public transportation system, as well as a recent 10-cent increase in subway and bus fares in the cities of Sao Paulo, Rio, among others.
‘The politicians must learn to respect us’
After the protests began, local governments in at least four of those cities have said they would roll back the increases. Also, local and federal officials have hinted that the fares in Sao Paulo could also be reversed. “It’s not clear that will calm the country, though, because the protests have released a seething litany of discontent from Brazilians over life’s struggles,” AP reported.
Brazilians, however, don’t have a list of demands, beyond the costs of public services and the poor quality thereof. They’re just angry in general – angry about how their ruling class and the governing system have failed them miserably. In fact, reports noted, a common chant among the largely peaceful protests has been, “No [political] parties!”
“What I hope comes from these protests is that the governing class comes to understand that we’re the ones in charge, not them, and the politicians must learn to respect us,” Yasmine Gomes, 22, told the AP in Sao Paulo.
The country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, is a former left-wing guerilla imprisoned and tortured during Brazil’s time of dictatorship, which stretched from 1969 to 1985. She praised the protesters, saying their demonstrations were a compliment to Brazil’s democracy. “Brazil today woke up stronger,” she said – without offering any actions or solutions that she is prepared to take to address her angry citizens.
The protests are not just problematic for the government; they also raise concerns about security in Brazil, which is playing host to the Confederations Cup, a soccer event, and which plans to host Pope Francis in July when he visits Sao Paulo and the bustling Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil’s political problems are systemic and indeed structural. For example, the Brazilian Tax Planning Institute, a think tank, has said the country’s tax burden in 2011 was 36 percent of gross domestic product (the sum of all of Brazil’s goods and services for a year); that makes it 12th out of 30 countries with the highest tax brackets.
Per the AP:
Yet public services such as schools are in sorry shape. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found in a 2009 educational survey that literacy and math skills of Brazilian 15-year-olds ranked 53rd out of 65 countries, behind nations such as Bulgaria, Mexico, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, and Romania.
‘We just want what we pay for’
In addition, Brazilians are simply fed up with government corruption and inefficiency – all traits of a bloated federal government similar to that which exists in our own country. And they are upset that while they receive poor services, the government spends extravagantly on things like soccer stadiums and other structures as Brazil gears up to host the 2016 Olympics.
“We just want what we paid in taxes back, through health care, education and transportation,” Agatha Rossi de Paula, 34, an attorney who took part in protests in Sao Paulo, told AP, summarizing the modest demands of most protestors. “We want the police to protect us, to help the people on the streets who have ended up with no job and no money.”
Government corruption and inefficiency is becoming a hallmark of the American system as well.
Sources for this article include:
This article was posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 4:32 am