The New Normal

Have you been following the goat rodeo in Brasil?

The government hiked transportation costs which will hit Los Pobres, who are also concerned about the costs of the World Cup next year.  Response? Demonstrations, riots… you know… the new normal.

This in advance of Pope Francis’ trip to Brasil for World Youth Day.

From AP:

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — More than a week of massive, violent protests across Brazil invited only stoic silence Friday from President Dilma Rousseff, even after she had called an emergency meeting with a top Cabinet member in response to the growing unrest.

Only on Friday night did the government confirm that Rousseff would address the nation a few hours later, but through a prerecorded message. She was expected to meet in the evening with top bishops from the Roman Catholic Church about the protests’ effects on a papal visit still scheduled for next month in Rio and Sao Paulo state.

Trying to decipher the president’s reaction to the unrest has become a national guessing game, especially after some 1 million anti-government demonstrators took to the streets the night before across the country to denounce everything from poor public services to the billions of dollars spent preparing for next year’s World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

The protests continued Friday, as about 1,000 people marched in western Rio de Janeiro city, with some looting stores and invading an enormous $250 million arts center that remains empty after several years of construction. Police tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas as they were pelted with rocks. Police said some in the crowd were armed and firing at officers.

Local radio was also reporting that protesters were heading to the apartment of Rio state Gov. Sergio Cabral in the posh Rio neighborhood of Ipanema.

Other protests broke out in the country’s biggest city, Sao Paulo, and in Fortaleza in the country’s northeast. Demonstrators were calling for more mobilizations in 10 cities on Saturday.

The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops came out in favor of the protests, saying that it maintains “solidarity and support for the demonstrations, as long as they remain peaceful.”

“This is a phenomenon involving the Brazilian people and the awakening of a new consciousness,” church leaders said in the statement. “The protests show all of us that we cannot live in a country with so much inequality.”


Perhaps João Card. Braz de Aviz should drop everything, leave Rome, and rush to Brasil to help settle things down before Francis gets there.

During Acton University last week, we heard a talk from an Iranian women, convert to Catholicism while still a teen, who had been hauled to a pretty nasty prison and tortured in various ways you can guess at during the Islamic revolution.  She offered, among other things, a warning: revolutions are like explosions – they are sudden and the results are unpredictable.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. pattif says:

    Maybe this is not entirely unrelated to Papa Francesco’s decision to bunk off last night’s concert….

  2. Scott Woltze says:

    No worries, Fr. Z. It shouldn’t be too much longer before Julian Felsenburgh arrives to soothe the unrest and our other problems as well.

  3. Johnny Domer says:

    1. Anything that keeps Cardinal Braz de Aviz out of Rome is fine with me.

    2. Boy, I sure am glad a bunch of naive, not-terribly-well-supervised American teenagers won’t all be flying to Rio next month for World Youth Day!

  4. Maltese says:

    It’s going to happen here; start prepping!

  5. AgricolaDeHammo says:

    Rather good films: Tropa de Elite 1 & 2. The first one is actually set before a visit by JPII as the special ops team go in to “clean up” the favelas. Solid action, acting and interesting political commentary.
    After seeing the conditions in the favelas as represented in the films I never thought to myself… what would happen if someone got them all to march somewhere for some cause?
    A friend of mine in Belo Horizonte was telling me how day to day life goes you dont have to know all the drug trade and poverty that goes on out there.

  6. acardnal says:

    Let’s see. . . . Pope’s visit in July 2013, World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics 2016. Gotta wonder if Brazil is ready for the big time!

  7. Pingback: Holy Words of a Secular Culture -

  8. Luciano says:

    I was walking around São Paulo’s dowtown saturday morning. The building’s walls near our cathedral are full of inscriptions like Aborto Livre (free abortion), made by the crowd. I don’t know how the things are in Rio de Janeiro, but I sense a lot of anticatholicism in the air.

  9. Marcio A. Campos says:

    Some background information: the demonstrations started in São Paulo, our most important state. The left has never been able to win elections for governor there, and they’ll try again in 2014 (PSDB, social-democrats, have been ruling the state since the 90’s).

    From now on, my view of the recent facts: The MPL, the radical left-wing group demanding free public transportation for all, set a nice trap to the governor. They started rioting against the fare hike (set by São Paulo’s mayor, who’s a socialist from PT, the current ruling party in both city and country) but somehow sparing mayor Haddad himself. But on the 3rd day of demonstrations, police used unnecessary roughness against the demonstrators, shooting lots of people (including journalists, at point blank range!) with rubber bullets. Since police is a state (not city) affair in Brazil, the situation gave the leftists the perfect ammunition to start focusing governor Alckmin instead of mayor Haddad. It happened on a Thursday (June 13th) and the next big demonstration was scheduled for Monday 17th. At this point other cities were already having their own demonstrations, but none as big as São Paulo. And MPL liked to say that “it’s not just 20 cents”, meaning that they had lots of other things in mind.

    But on the 17th something extraordinary happened. Dozens of thousands of people went to the streets in many cities demanding every kind of thing, and most of the demands wouldn’t relate to the usual leftist platforms. People with flags or t-shirts of leftist parties were even being harassed, treated as “opportunists”. The bus fare was still among the priorities of the demonstrators, and many mayors ended reducing the fare, but even then people stayed on the streets. After the first goal was reached, MPL said that the next steps were “rural and urban reform” (i.e. socialist attacks on private property) and criticizing the use of “their demonstration” to push for things like defending the unborn. But the people weren’t interested in socialist reforms and kept attacking president Dilma Rousseff, leftist parties (note that “center” parties — we have no right-wing parties — apparently weren’t welcome as well, but at least they didn’t attempt to seize the movement as leftists did). At one point MPL said they wouldn’t be calling more demonstrations because, you know, “their movement” was taken by reactionary fascists (that’s how leftists call conservatives in Brazil), showing that, in the end, for them it was just about 20 cents, which prompted many people on Twitter and Facebook to call MPL “traitors”. Looks like the MPL felt the hit and said they would return to the streets soon.

    The problem is: the more people go to the streets, the more vandalism happens, at least in bigger cities, and we’ve had some ugly episodes, people burning cars and buses, breaking into stores and stealing stuff, and so on. Last Friday people destroyed bus stops, traffic lights and lots of public property in Curitiba, where I live. Some people claim that MPL and the leftists decided to leave the demonstrations exactly because they knew it was going to happen, so they could blame “the right” for the mess. Other people claim the leftists are directly behind the vandalism episodes (with the same goal, blaming the conservatives). Unless people start being arrested, it’s hard to say if there’s truth in these claims, or if they are just conspiracy theories. My guess is that, after the June 13th episode, when everyone, including press, started demonizing São Paulo state police as extremely violent, police elsewhere has been afraid of being tough on vandals.

    After many days of silence, presidente Dilma went to TV on Friday and condemned violence (which is fine) and repeated lots of vague promises which no one seems to believe. She’s desperately trying to avoid blame to stick on her, who’ll run for reelection in 2014. Some political analysts think that even people in her own party won’t try too hard to save her, because it could pave the way for the return of Lula, a populist who was president between 2003-2010 (imagine na Hugo Chávez who fakes respect for democratic instutions). That would be awful.

    I have no idea of how demonstrators will behave from now on. My guess is that the left will try to retake the control of the movement, but I don’t know if they’ll be successful. Maybe the demonstrators will run out of gas, or vandalism will keep growing and it will make good people stay away from next demonstrations. Catholics I know have been divided over the issue. While some see a nice opportunity to show politicians the real demands of the average Brazilian (we are pro-life, we don’t want socialism), others advise people to stay away so they won’t be used as tools by the left. For now, I side with the first group.

    I don’t know how it would affect Pope Francis’s visit. Unlike Luciano above, I don’t see anticatholicism as a strong feature of the demonstrations, although there are anti-Catholics in the crowd for sure. Brasilia cathedral’s stained glasses were broken last week, but it’s hard to say whether the cathedral was an opportunity target of it it was fueled by anticatholicism (the “free abortion” is easier to explain).

    Sorry for the long post, but maybe that will help non-Brazilians to undestand what’s going on here.

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