WASHINGTON (VR)— Brazil is expecting 600,000 foreign visitors to the World Cup that kicks off on June 12, and the authorities are also expecting the most potent social protest demonstrations in the country’s history.
While much has been made recently of the most violent protest elements, grouped under the so-called “Black Bloc”, disaffection with longstanding issues of corruption and poverty is broadly spread across the country, so the government will not have the luxury of silencing a few groups of rioters with baton charges and declaring the crisis over. What exactly they can do to recapture the trust of the mass of the population is not very clear, however.
For insight into social protest and government response in Brazil, Radio VR’s David Kerans spoke with Alex Sanchez, a researcher at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
Sanchez provided examples of discrete but powerful protests going on all over Brazil, ranging from hospitals demanding proper supplies, to police departments striking for higher pay, to oil industry workers denouncing the privatization of an important offshore oilfield.
In this context, explained Sanchez, the government is almost powerless to pacify the society with concessions in advance of the World Cup: unmet needs are everywhere in Brazil.
For all the challenges the country is facing, Sanchez does not interpret the Black Bloc’s disdain for the political system as a harbinger of Brazil losing faith in parliamentary democracy. The nation as a whole is not so disillusioned as to renounce its political system. Nor is there any sign of an extremist right-wing nationalist movement taking shape, in contrast to the example of such parties gaining ground in the most recent elections in Europe. Brazil is not descending into barbarism, no matter how disturbing the impending social protests may be. It remains to be seen, however, what sort of road forward the government will lay out after the stress of the World Cup month is over.
Listen to the conversation between Sanchez and Kerans here: