Brazil is having its Arab Spring/Occupy/Taksim Gezi moment. Like other recent nationwide protests, the Brazilian unrest started with something specific—a 20-cent increase in public transit fares—and turned into an avalanche of grievances. NYT:
SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Just a few weeks ago, Mayara Vivian felt pretty good when a few hundred people showed up for a protest she helped organize to deride the government over a proposed bus fare increase. She had been trying to prod Brazilians into the streets since 2005, when she was only 15, and by now she thought she knew what to expect.
But when tens of thousands of protesters thronged the streets this week, rattling cities across the country in a reckoning this nation had not experienced in decades, she was dumbfounded, at a loss to explain how it could have happened.
“One hundred thousand people, we never would have thought it,” said Ms. Vivian, one of the founders of the Free Fare Movement, which helped start the protests engulfing Brazil. “It’s like the taking of the Bastille.”
...the mass protests thundering across Brazil have swept up an impassioned array of grievances — costly stadiums, corrupt politicians, high taxes and shoddy schools — and spread to more than 100 cities on Thursday night, the most to date, with increasing ferocity.
Also like Occupy, officials are frustrated that there are no leaders to negotiate with, and no readymade political lollipops they can hand over to soothe the demonstrators. From roarmag.org:
But while the general pattern of the protests in Brazil shows an unmistakable similarity to the ongoing uprising in Turkey, we have to recognize that the context in which the two are taking place is radically different. Turkey is ruled by a megalomaniac and increasingly autocratic Islamist madman who in recent weeks has displayed an undeniable tendency towards the fascistic and the delusional. The protesters are Erdogan’s natural enemy; he knows they will never vote for him again so his only concern is with their violent repression.
The same cannot be said of Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla, who has been forced to praise the protests and push state governors into reversing the measures that initially sparked the unrest. Realizing that last week’s police violence served as a major catalyst for the movement, she has urged restraint on the side of the police and has tried to start a dialogue with protesters. But the leaderless and diffuse nature of the movement makes such a dialogue practically impossible, leaving the government dazed and confused about how to handle the unrest.
Some will insist that Egypt is not New York is not Istanbul is not etc., and that each place has its own grievances and very specific geopolitical and cultural situation that is not comparable to others, etc.
And that's partly true. But it's impossible to deny the global quality of what's been happening since the Tunisian uprising—it's also impossible to deny the role of heavy-handed police in sparking indignation. (In almost all of these cases, police have done more to stoke the protests than dampen them.) And people seem generally fed up with the way power (government and money) has organized their world, even in representative democracies where people have supposedly voted their way into their current situation. Also from the NYT:
Much like the Occupy movement in the United States, the anticorruption protests that shook India in recent years, the demonstrations over living standards in Israel or the fury in European nations like Greece, the demonstrators in Brazil are fed up with traditional political structures, challenging the governing party and the opposition alike. And their demands are so diffuse that they have left Brazil’s leaders confounded as to how to satisfy them.