I recently wrote about my personal experience of a nationwide protest in Brazil. But what of this movement for a new politics in Brazil? Will it succeed? Can the country drag itself out of its current political turmoil?
Reluctantly, I am pessimistic. My feeling is that the protest movement is too disparate to be effective as a force for real, lasting change.
Without exception, everyone I speak to in Brazil is deeply dissatisfied with their country’s current situation. In fact, a complaint about Brazil’s politicians is often one of the first things that come up in conversation when people here realise I am a foreigner.
However, despite this unanimous dissatisfaction with the status quo, there seems to be little consensus on what can be done about it.
Some see the socialist ‘workers party’ as the vehicle for social progress. Indeed, the country made some real progress under the leadership of the last two presidents, Lula and Dilma, whose social welfare programmes lifted millions out of poverty. Others blame precisely this party and the past two presidents for creating the problems the country now faces.
As is happening in countries across the world, some are looking to the far right for an answer. Meanwhile, others look to the evangelical churches, which are emerging as a new political force in Brazil.
Some claim that the tact of the existing protest movement isn’t aggressive enough, reminding me that recent protests in my own country have been more violent than the sort of protests seen here. Others suggest that the protests are already too disruptive and that by inconveniencing the general public, the national strike hurt the very people it aimed to help.
Lots of opinions but no clear unifying voice. I fear this lack of a single, organised movement may prove fatal.
My plea to the people of Brazil, therefore, is to find a focus for all this energy evident in last Friday’s protests and to make sure that dissatisfaction with the status quo ends up uniting them rather than driving them further apart.