By Jorge Capelán, Tortilla con Sal.
Facebook's Chairman and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, say it's revolutionary
one should be wary. The past 10 day's protests in Brazil have been
hailed by most progressives in the West as well as by activists and
politically committed people all over the world as a revolutionary
event. Although they might have a positive political effect, they are
not revolutionary per se, and they actually could be used by forces
interested in preventing Brazil from playing a decisive role in the
budding multipolar world order.
During the last 10 days, a movement has grown, apparently out of thin
air, demanding "changes" in Latin America's largest country. According
to various reports, it all started with small demonstrations of less
than 3.000 people protesting against the rise of 20 cents of Real (less
than USD 0.10) in the price of the ticket of the collective
transportation system in the city of Sao Paulo. Now it's tens of
thousands of people demonstrating in tens of cities all over the
country. The demonstrators protest not only against the price and lousy
quality of collective transportation, but also against the deficiencies
in other public services such as education and health care. They protest
against the building of expensive stadiums to host the coming soccer
World Championship instead of cheap housing projects, as well as against
the corruption of a political system designed to render ineffective any
attempt to carry out deep changes.
All this sounds wonderful but, it has to be said, this is not a revolutionary situation.
can imagine a revolution ousting a government which has shown that
economic policy is not about first creating wealth in order to later
distribute it, but the other way around? What is revolutionary about
destabilizing a government that has proved that one can both expand the
internal market through popular consumption and boost exports? Those are
two of the basic tenets of neoliberal Capitalism, and both have been
crushed to pieces by Lula's and Rousseff's governments.
protests are taking place in a country where a progressive government
has managed to lift 40-50 million people (about 20-25% of the
population) out of poverty. The Brazilian middle class is the one with
the largest growth in Latin America - from about 20% in the 1990's to
50% or more today. Inflation is under control and real wages are rising;
unemployement is at a all-time low and the government is very popular.
Even today, after images of police repression against the demonstrators
have been broadcasted, with a popularity drop of 8%, 55% of the
Brazilians have a positive view of the government and 77% think
President Dilma Rousseff is doing a good job.
protesters were met with violence by the authorities, but the
government's attitude promptly changed to a conciliatory one. In several
cities, the local governments have cancelled their plans to raise the
bus ticket and are open to dialogue with the demonstrators.
to president Rousseff "the protests show the value of democracy and
reveal that the citizen are demanding their rights". She condemned
isolated cases of violence but valued the prevailingly peaceful attitude
of the participants in the protests. That, she said, is "proof of the
greatness of our democracy and of the civic character of our people, and
is a direct message to those in charge at all levels".
issues raised by the protesters are not baseless - they are acknowledged
as problems by the government and by ruling PT's leaders. Even many of
their criticisms of PT itself have been acknowledged by Lula and others.
The neoliberal political system is one of the forces holding back
Brazil's development. But this is not an insurrection. 250.000
demonstrators do not make a revolution in a country of 205 million.
1/1000% does not make a revolution. Political majorities do. The left in
Brazil does not have a majority of its own and is dependent on broad
alliances in order to govern, which in turn reflects on its ability to
deepen the changes.
These demonstrations have been compared to
the mass mobilizations that took place in 1984 and 1990. In 1984,
millions of Brazilians took to the streets to demand democratic
elections. In 1990, it was to force the then president Collor de Mello
to renounce. 250.000 Brazilians today is not much considering that the
country's population is 30% larger and is more urbanized. Back in the
80's and 90's, it was political parties and social movements, with clear
agendas and slogans with a common objective that took to the streets.
Those were organic movements, with strong roots among the popular
It is not clear who is leading today's protests in
Brazil. There is a strong anti-establishment sentiment and a mixture of
left-wing and right-wing agendas of urbanized middle-class strata.
been said that these demonstrations were convoked through the social
media. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, one of the world's richest men (13
billion dollars) holds a sign in front of the camera: "IT'S NOT 20
CENTS! #CHANGEBRAZIL!" Revolution? Come on... Zuckerberg got the seed
capital to start his firm from CIA's front In-Q-Tel. Facebook, one of
the capo di tutti capi in the Internet is a regular informant of the
National Security Agency, it was revealed a couple of days ago. In fact,
the revelations go, FB and companies such as Apple, Google and Yahoo
gave the agency "direct" and unrestricted access to their servers.
not saying that Facebook organized the protests, but it's clear that
the CIA's department for Cyberwarfare has a stake on what is going on in
The protests may be an opportunity to consolidate the
South American giant's rupture away from neoliberal policies, but they
might also lead to further destabilizing incidents which in the short or
medium term could compromise the process of integration and
independence of our continent. So far Dilma Rousseff has reacted wisely.
Let's hope she and the PT succeed, because we need a strong Brazil.