Foreign Policy Blogs

Another Round of Protests hit Brazil


Photo Credit: Rodrigo Vieira

While Brazilian authorities may feel like they dodged a bullet in quelling protester unrest during the recent World Cup, those tensions are merely stewing, waiting for the right moment to emerge. On Jan. 3, that necessary impetus arrived, as transport authorities announced bus and train fares increases of 16.6 per cent in São Paulo and 13.3 per cent in Rio de Janeiro. The increases were slightly higher than the 10-cent rises which set off the 2013 protests, the latter of which were eventually cancelled.  This time around, the implementation of the increases last week caused as many as 2,000 citizens to demonstrate at the central train station in Rio — site of the February 2014 death of Santiago Andrade, a cameraman killed by a protester’s flare. That same night over in São Paulo, some 5,000 to 10,000 people were marching more violently. Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters smashing windows and 51 were arrested. Smaller protests were also held in such important cities as Salvador and Belo Horizonte.

The recent demonstrations are reminiscent of those which took place in June 2013, in which up to 500,000 people took part in Rio, and those leading up to the July 2014 World Cup. This time around, the economy is struggling to maintain the growth necessary to support those left behind during the boom years.  And all eyes around the world will be focused on another major event — the 2016 Olympics — for which the protesters know they will be able to draw worldwide media attention to their cause.

In Rio, the main Olympic Park and the Olympic Village will be located in the upscale beach suburb of Barra de Tijuca, far from some of Rio’s most violent favelas. However, a hike in transport fares will not keep the underprivileged from descending onto the Olympic village, lured by the prospect of international media coverage for their cause. President Dilma Rousseff has planned budget cuts for her next term in office, but these will likely prove unpopular among Brazil’s masses. What will prove popular is continued action to tackle corruption — another former executive at Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil’s state-owned oil company, was arrested on Wednesday. The Brazilian transport authorities should repeat the action they took earlier and suspend the transport hikes, and take further action to prosecute the underlying corruption which the population believes fuels the fare hikes.



Gary Sands

Gary Sands is a Senior Analyst at Wikistrat, a crowdsourced consultancy, and a Director at Highway West Capital Advisors, a venture capital, project finance and political risk advisory. He has contributed a number of op-eds for Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek, Washington Times, The Diplomat, The National Interest, International Policy Digest, Asia Times, EurasiaNet, Eurasia Review, Indo-Pacific Review, the South China Morning Post, and the Global Times. He was previously employed in lending and advisory roles at Shell Capital, ABB Structured Finance, and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation. He earned his Masters of Business Administration in International Business from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and a Bachelor of Science in Finance at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. He spent six years in Shanghai from 2006-2012, four years in Rio de Janeiro, and is currently based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Twitter@ForeignDevil666