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Brazil: It Was Never About the Bus Fares


Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have both agreed to reverse the bus fare increases that sparked demonstrations and rioting across Brazil, but so far this has done nothing to quell the protests. The WSJ reports that hundreds of thousands of protesters hit the streets despite the apparent political victory. No one should be surprised by this turn; it’s been clear from the start that the unrest in Brazil was about much more than bus fares.

Brazilian journalist William Waack’s new piece in TAI provides solid analysis of the situation in Brazil. Brazilians, he says, are simultaneously protesting everything that’s wrong with Brazil and nothing in particular. The roots of the unrest aren’t grounded in any specific policy but rather in a general lack of faith in and respect for a corrupt and feckless political class:

For at least the past ten years, the political powers-that-be in Brazil (basically, the Partido dos Trabalhadores, or Workers’ Party) have been flirting with legal transgressions, outright contempt of judicial decisions, and illegal occupations and invasions of land—always in the name of an ill-defined vision of “social justice.” […]

It’s little surprise, then, that Brazilians show no respect for public institutions—for the government, for the Presidency, for the Congress, for those responsible for public security in the major cities, or for the political parties. This, I think, is the main danger of the unrest sweeping through Brazil right now.

These protests don’t seem to be going away any time soon, and the underlying issues can’t be fixed by lowering bus fares. The country needs deep and lasting political reform to restore trust in its institutions, says Waack. It also needs to make sure it doesn’t return to its past misadventures in state planning and crippling inflation.

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  • qet

    This trend–loss of respect for and confidence in public institutions–is pretty much going on everywhere on the planet right now to a greater or lesser degree. Apparently what must happen is that we must all work ourselves backward into the Hobbesian state of nature whence we came, and go through a time of war of all against all until after a few generations the war-weary people decide to make a new social contract, and then the whole thing can begin all over again–the eternal recurrence.

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