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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Readers Debate Brazil’s Protests

The nationwide protests in Brazil, which began over an increase in bus fares, have expanded this week into a wide-ranging popular indictment of the nation’s ruling class. As the unrest has intensified, Brazilian readers of The New York Times have attempted to explain the protests to a curious audience in comments posted on this site in English and Portuguese.

“Protests in my country are a reflection of a corrupt political” class that is “stealing people’s money,” a reader, Heverton in Brazil, wrote. “Brazil is not only the country of football, carnival and beautiful women. There are humans here! However, the government of that country has forgotten tha..” Brazilians, Heverton continued, “do not have adequate health, education, housing, sanitation and our minimum wage is only $300! What a shame!”

With Brazil set to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, the suspicion that the government was using diversions like sports and street parties to distract the public from endemic corruption and economic inequality was prevalent in comments posted by readers in Brazil and abroad.

“People are wisening up to the fact that more circus leads to less bread,” Suertes in Malaysia wrote. “Many are now questioning large-scale expenditures for sports carnivals that appear to enrich corporations and raise the prestige of politicians while doing little to uplift ordinary people, especially the poor.”

Further driving frustration is the widespread perception that local news sources have sought t! o undermine the protests. Many comments have amounted to pleas for help from the international community to legitimize the protests and push the Brazilian government toward reform. “This is what we wanted: to achieve international media to embarrass our politicians and thus seek an improvement in Brazil,” Gabriel in Salvador, Brazil, wrote, referring to the article on which he commented.

Pr_mauricio from São Paulo added, “Here in Brazil, many TV stations are being biased and showing only the negative side of the protests.”

Nonetheless, a number of readers were dismissive of the demonstrations. While acknowledging frustration with endemic corruption in Brazil, they argued that the protesters’ nonspecific goals and destruction of property eliminated any chance that the movement would ead to social change. “I was very disappointed to find out that this demonstrations is infested by many vagabonds who are clueless about they want in life and are following a political agenda,” Mark in Brazil wrote. “I went to the very demonstration and asked what they were protesting against and I was told some ridiculous explanations.”

Andreia in São José dos Campos wrote, “Brazil has always been an ocean of corruption,” and added: “The roots of the corruption are in the society. Specifically from the high society. The movement started complaining about the bus ticket fare. Then when they saw it was not the thing that weights more for the working class, they started adding new complaints to their movement. And many of those are extremely discriminative against poor people. S! orry, I d! on’t buy it.”

Indeed, a few commenters, like Marisa in São Paulo, claimed that “only poor people” still supported President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Many comments in favor of the protesters argued that Ms. Rousseff’s and Mr. da Silva’s policies had increased government corruption.

“Lula establish a new era of corruption in Brazil,” Renato in Rio de Janeiro wrote. “I am not saying that his predecessors were better. What I am saying is that, when talking about corruption, Lula has a master degree. He invented Mensalão” â€" a Brazilian vote-buying scandal â€" “and now Dilma is following his footsteps.”

Ms. Rousseff argues that the World Cup “will leave a great legacy to the country,” Renato wrote, but “what legacy did th Pan American games left?”

Ms. Rousseff was roundly booed last weekend at the opening match of the Confederations Cup, which was held in the new national stadium in Brasília, the capital.

Boos filled Brazil’s expensive new national stadium in Brasília on Saturday when President Dilma Rousseff was introduced.

Complicating matters for both sides is the protesters’ litany of demands. Some Brazilians have come to see the demonstrations as anti-populist. Andreia in São José dos Campos wrote: “Many of those on the streets claim the ones who receive government subsidie! s are par! asites. This is not true. The help government pay for the extremely poor monthly reaches around 150 dollars at most. The problem is something beyond that needs to be done so they can have sustainable income.”

Opposing commenters dismissed this view as little more than political propaganda, but the comments make it clear that it will be difficult for Ms. Rousseff’s government to unwind the many threads of the demonstrators’ demands.

It “is not only the schools and public transit systems that need upgrades, the health system needs too,” Adriane in De Paula, Brazil, wrote. Lines at public hospitals are “ridiculous, people are dying before they get a chance to see a doctor. And let me tell you about public schools, here nobody in a public repeat grades. That’s right, it doesn’t matter if you know or not, or even if you know how to read! Our government simply wants to appear in queris with less truancy and does not care if those kids are learning or not.”

One theme unifies the hundreds of comments, across the political spectrum, that The Times continues to receive about the protests: the thirst for a better life in Brazil. “When I look at my daughter that I love as much as it is possible for a human heart to love, I ask myself if it is fair for her to live here,” Vick in Brazil wrote in a comment translated from Portuguese by The New York Times. “This country has a facade, a very fake and not well-built one.”

The commenter continued: “They say this country is safe. That is a lie, we are robbed every day, people die in front of us, parents bury their children, children who many times die in the arms of their parents, children who are victims of the tyranny of others, others who are rich and powerful and others who are poor and have nothing to lose, and h! aving not! hing to lose gives them strength to take away the most precious thing we have: the right to live!”

Sofia Perpétua and Robert Mackey contributed reporting.