Brazil: where is the protest movement heading?

Soon after massive protests started spreading in Brazil in mid-June, Spanish-language media began calling the protesters los indignados—"the angry ones," or "the indignant ones," a reference to May 2011 anti-austerity protests in Spain. It was obvious to most commentators that the Brazilian uprising fit into a pattern of spontaneous mass protests in response to the ongoing world economic crisis: the "Arab Spring" of early 2011, the Spanish protests, Occupy Wall Street in the US, demonstrations for free education in Chile and in Canada's Quebec province, and the more recent protests in Greece and Turkey.

Brazil comes to Zuccotti Park

New York's Zuccotti Park, which three weeks ago was filled with Turkish protesters in solidarity with the Istanbul uprising, today filled up with Brazilians gathering in support of the protests that have for days been shaking São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and other cities. One banner reflected the multi-issue scope of the protests: "PRES. ROUSSEFF: HANDS OFF PROTESTERS! TAX THE RICH, BUILD SCHOOLS! BRAZILIAN TROOPS OUT OF HAITI!" Many wore matching t-shirts reading "Não é só por 20 centavos" (It isn't just 20 cents)—a popular slogan of the movement, referring to the transit fare hikes that sparked the protest wave. Protesters are demanding an investigation into corruption around the $15 billion that has been spent in preparation for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, with new stadiums going up in several cities and poor residents being evicted to make way for them. (See The Guardian, June 18) New York area Brazilians plan to return to Zuccotti tomorrow and march on the United Nations on Tuesday June 25. The gathering drew some support from Occupy Wall Street activists; one sported a sign reading: "BRAZIL, TURKEY, GREECE—IT'S YOUR TURN, AMERICA!" The New York protests are being coordinated through the Facebook page Democracia não tem Fronteiras/ Democracy without Borders.  

Brazil: top indigenous official resigns

Security guards shot and seriously injured an indigenous Terena, Josiel Gabriel Alves, on June 4 when a group of about 60 protesters tried to occupy the São Sebastião estate in Sidrolandia municipality in the southern Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Doctors said Gabriel might lose the use of his arms and legs. This was the second shooting in less than a week in an ongoing dispute over lands claimed by the Terena: Osiel Gabriel, Josiel Gabriel's cousin, was killed by federal police on May 30 at a nearby estate. The Terena have been occupying several large estates in Sidrolandia since May 15; they say the estates are on land the federal government designated as indigenous territory in 2010. The 28,000 Terena live on just 20,000 hectares in Mato Grosso. (Adital, Brazil, June 5)

Brazil: indigenous protester killed in land dispute

Osiel Gabriel, an indigenous Terena, was killed on May 30 when Brazilian federal police violently removed a group of Terena protesters who had been occupying the Buriti estate in Sidrolandia, in the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, since May 15. At least three indigenous people and one police agent were treated at a local hospital with light injuries; eight protesters were arrested. The occupiers reportedly fought back with wooden clubs and bows and arrows and set some of the estate's buildings on fire. The authorities claimed police agents only used rubber bullet and tear gas; according to state police superintendent Edgar Paulo Marcon, the protesters fired on the agents.

Brazil: 30,000 people displaced for sports events

A total of 3,099 families have been removed from their homes in Rio de Janeiro and another 7,843 have been threatened with removal as part of Brazil's preparations for hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, according to a study released on May 15 by the Popular Committee of the World Cup and the Olympics. The group estimates that 30,000 people have been affected, based on the average number of people in the households. The study, "Mega-Events and Human Rights Violations in Rio de Janeiro," was produced with the collaboration of the impacted communities, the Institute for Urban and Regional Research and Planning (Ippur) and groups including the nongovernmental organization Global Justice

Brazil: protesters suspend Belo Monte occupation

On the night of May 9 some 150 mostly indigenous protesters left the construction site which they had occupied for a week at the Belo Monte dam, in Vitória do Xingu municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. (We previously reported 200 occupiers, following our sources.) The decision to end the protest came after Judge Sérgio Wolney Guedes of the Region 1 Federal Regional Court responded to a request from Norte Energia S.A., the consortium in charge of the dam, by ordering the activists to leave and authorizing the use of force by the police. "We went out the same way we entered, peacefully, without causing damage to public property or any type of aggression," Valdenir Munduruku, a spokesperson for the protesters, told the official Agência Brasil by phone. But he said the activists were unhappy with the court's decision, "because we think that our rights are being violated."

Protesters again block construction at Belo Monte

About 200 protesters occupied the main construction site for the giant Belo Monte dam, in Vitória do Xingu municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará, on May 2 to demand the immediate suspension of work on the project until the government has respected the indigenous communities' right to prior consultation on the project. The occupiers—who included members of the Munduruku, Juruna, Kayapó, Xipaya, Kuruaya, Asurini, Parakanã and Arara indigenous groups as well as fishing people and other residents in the area that will be affected by the dam—were also protesting the presence of soldiers and military vehicles in the region. They said they would maintain the occupation and block construction "until the federal government responds to the demands we've presented."

Brazil: indigenous people occupy Congress

On April 16, when Brazil commemorates Indigenous Peoples Day, some 700 indigenous representatives occupied the lower-house Chamber of Deupites in a final effort to stop attempts to change the law concerning their territorial rights. They pledged to maintain their protests until the National Congress drops Constitutional Amendment Proposal 215 (PEC 215), now making its way through the lower house, which would transfer the power to demarcate indigenous lands from the executive to the legislative branch. Indigenous leaders call the move a stratagem by Brazil's powerful Rural Lobby, which includes many politicians who own ranches on indigenous land. Police used tasers in an attempt to stop the occupation.

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