7 Reasons Why Are People Protesting In Brazil

Over the last few weeks, crowds in Brazil have swelled as more and more people join in massive protests. What exactly are they protesting?

There is no single goal or partisan affiliation.

Here are a few of the many reasons people are protesting:

1. More than 16 million Brazilians live on less than $44 a month.

That’s roughly 1 in 12 Brazilians who live on $44 a month or less (which is lower than even the poverty line, so don’t get the two confused). Shown here is a portion of the overcrowded slums of Rio de Janeiro.

For perspective, $44 is less than half what the average American spends on coffee in a month

According to Consumerist, the average American spends about $91 a month on coffee.

2. Brazil’s minimum wage is around $320 a month

And that’s before taxes.

3. Many workers commute 2-3 hours each way on Brazil’s public transit

Gifrific / Via gifrific.com

Paulo Sotero of the Brazil Institute talked about this on Bloomberg TV: “Brazil is supposed to be, now, the sixth or seventh largest economy on Earth, and people are asking ‘you know, if we are that, why do we have to put up every day with this kind of commuting in bad public transportation?’”

4. Brazil’s schools are ranked 39th out of 40 major nations

According to a ranking by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Brazil’s educational system was the second-worst among major countries.

Yet, seeing as 80% of schools in the capital city of Brasilia have “inadequate facilities” – lacking chairs, textbooks, insulation, and water-tight roofs – perhaps this doesn’t come as too much of a surprise.

5. Some are enraged by the passage of “gay cure” legislation…

As USA Today notes, “Some protesters also were angry about legislation passed last week that would allow psychologists to treat homosexuality as a disorder or pathology.”

…which was pushed by Marco Feliciano, a prominent evangelical pastor…

Powerful pastor Marco Feliciano was a prominent backer of the bill and has become a lightning rod for controversy over the last several years, voicing incendiary opinions on Twitter (including calling AIDS a “gay cancer” and tweeting that: “On the African continent rests the curse of paganism, occultism, miseries, diseases originating from there: ebola, AIDS. Hunger … etc.”)

… who is also the President of Brazil’s Human Rights Commission

6. Brazil’s spending on the World Cup and Olympics

Within the context of all of these problems – especially the rampant economic malaise – people are upset that their tax dollars are being used for building stadiums for tourists instead of feeding the millions of Brazilians who suffer from hunger.

The government is spending at least $29 billion to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Whether new stadiums, beautification projects, or building adequate transit systems, tourist events of this magnitude are costly. The World Cup and Olympics will each cost Brazil at least $14.5 billion to host.

The amount spent on soccer stadiums for the World Cup could build 8,000 new schools

giphy.com / Via Giphy

That’s according to Brazilian soccer legend-turned-politician Romario.

7. What sparked the protest? Proposed bus fares increases.

If you’re making minimum wage ($320 a month), then taking the bus to and from work will cost about $82/month

As The Atlantic notes, that’s roughly 26% of a minimum wage-earner’s monthly income (without thinking about taxes, rent, food, or medical care), once a proposed 9-cent fare increase would go into effect.

…which is 26% of your income

So, you can probably understand why people are frustrated

“Protesters are asserting their sacred civil right to raise their voices and demand respect from authorities and by a self-serving political class that has become an embarrassment to itself and to the nation.” - Paulo Sotero in the Wall Street Journal.

The protests in Brazil don’t have one lone cause.

Here’s what Paulo Sotero, Director of the Brazil Institute at the Wilson Center, says:

Fueled by multiple grievances, from the poor quality of public services while millions of reals are spent to build football stadiums to revulsion against a political class seen as largely corrupt and self-serving, rallies held in more than 100 cities conveyed above all a deep sense of exasperation with the country’s slow pace of change.

The sentiment is especially strong among the young emerging middle class that took to the streets. Beneficiaries of two decades of democracy with economic stability, they bought the dream of a more prosperous and equitable Brazil drummed up by their leaders and are now saying that it is time to start delivering.”

And it’s not accurate to compare them to the protests in Tahrir Square or Gezi.

Again, here’s Paulo Sotero:

“Although parallels with mass demonstration that have shaken Egypt and Turkey are inevitable, this is not Tahrir or Taksim Square. Brazilians did not take to the street to overthrow an authoritarian government. Having tasted and liked the fruits of almost two decades of democracy with economic stability, they are now asking for more democracy and better outcomes from a political system that has become increasingly dysfunctional and incapable of producing concrete solutions to real problems related to people’s quality of life in a stalled economy.”

But by tapping into such widespread frustration, the protests have earned a massive following

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