Brazil: Sleeping Giant Awakening

In the first of our weekly series, Across the Americas, Ilya Brotzky joins us from São Paulo, Brazil. A graduate of Cornell University in applied economics and management, he is a startup entrepreneur, and his own company is Brazil Career Blueprint.

We examine what has generated the latest, widespread uprising and where it is leading. In particular, Brotzky assures people that it is not just about a slightly increased bus fare. Rather, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He points to severe and endemic corruption — a complete lack of accountability — along with immense spending on Soccer World Cup preparation, while government infrastructure, education, and medical care remain neglected.

CorruptionA prominent measure of corruption from Transparency International, at least in terms of perceptions, finds Brazil to be middle of the road within Latin America (pictured right). It ranks sixty-fifth in the world, versus 169th for Venezuela and 150th for Paraguay. As Brotkzy notes, however, measuring such problems or ranking them in an ordinal manner, is extremely difficult and subject to many assumptions. From an earlier PanAmerican Post commentary, most people in Brazil simply understand pervasive corruption as a part of life.

While there has been an aggressive police response, Brotzky knows of only one death and no firing on protestors, other than rubber bullets and tear gas. There has also been no censorship of important social media networks, which he is sure would bring an immediate backlash and only energize protests.

“A very very high percentage of Brazilians want this to be a peaceful protest. [It’s] a small, loud minority that’s breaking windows of buses and trying to break into buildings.” Brotzky described the protests, at least going by his own engagement, as a “carnival with a cause,” such was the “goodwill spirit.”

While he does not see key policy leaders as part the uprising, he did identify the “Five Causes” from Anonymous Brazil. They include the penalization of corruption, an end to privileged legal protections for politicians, and an investigation of Soccer World Cup construction irregularities.

He also noted stiff opposition to the “gay cure,” an initiative to affirm homosexuality as an illness and allow treatment in government clinics. In the face of such opposition, the legislative sponsor has withdrawn the bill.

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