Monday, June 24, 2013

BRAZIL PROTEST MOVEMENT--STAGE II










Brazilians  continue to navigate the treacherous waters of political uncertainty. Last week, public indignation at corruption,  leading to protests against deficient education, health  and transportation systems,billions spent on World Cup facilities,   and a host of other problems. Over a million people took to the streets and the Brazilian police responded with disproportional force, firing rubber bullets, tear gas and flash-bang bombs  at protesters and members  of the media. Media  in Brazil and  abroad initially focused on vandalism committed by a small fraction of protesters, but as of this past weekend, news stories began to reflect   the complex reality of the protests. Clearly, this immense aggregation of families with children, students, senior citizens of all political stripes had goals other than to smash ATM and burn police police cars. The Leftist government  was quiet at first. Former president Lula da Silva, mentor president Dilma Roussef, took his sweet time endorsing the protest movement. Roussef, herself, conceded that peaceful protests were legitimate, but emphasized that   her government would not tolerate vandalism. Throughout this time, the police–including the mounted police Brazil continues to use as crowd control–was highly visible and often violent.Vandalism escalated, there were at  least half a dozen deaths, and number of allegedly arbitrary  arrests. Allegedly, a disproportionate number of members of the media was attacked by police  and illegally detained, prompting  the  The society of Protection for Journalists http://www.cpj.org/  to award Brazil the dubious honor of being named one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.

Following the initial unrest, some state governments walked back the proposed hike on bus and boat fares and  part of Movement Passe Livre decided to withdraw from the fray. Stage two of  the protest movement began with militants  meeting in cities, such as Fortaleza, Ceara,  to clarify goals and  set an agenda for upcoming protests. At the same time, ABIN, Brazil intel services agency, started  monitoring social media, and the police announced that it will use triple strength weapons of crowd control in upcoming protests. A mysterious blogger calling himself Marco Caleb–Google search of his name yielded a picture an infant–started a   campaign of disinformation aimed at deligitimising the #changebrazil movement on the internet. The blogger/s hints at a dark conspiracy by English speakers who have suspiciously expensive gadgets with which they make videos pressuring  Brazil to submit. Just what Brazil is supposed to submit to is not clear, but the blogger also claims the the Brazilian Right is poised for a military coup, that is creating cells in closed pages of Facebook, and many other allegations that do not hold up to fact checking.In a theater of the absurd moment, the blogger’s hints of a foreign conspiracy made today’s edition of Jornal  do Brasil. The story is incredibly fuzzy-wuzzy and it seems to be an attempt to neutralize #changebrazil and to cast doubt on the loyalty of  English-speaking Brazilians living abroad.”Why  would #changebrazil make videos in English,” it asks   By the way, I am  an English-speaking independent e-journalist living in the United States.  I became an American citizen after a nasty encounter with DOPS, the  Brazilian Secret Police in the Sao Paulo airport in 1976. If this makes me suspect, keep in mind that they Brazilian foreign minister  speaks accentless English and he makes videos. My answer to the dubious questioner in the JB is, ” We speak English in order to reach the global media, stupid.” I mean,  who the hell speaks Portuguese outside Brazil and Portugal? Should we rely on Google translations to get the news out?

Questioning all segments of the protest movement  movement is  healthy. So is to doubt the press. Journalists, especially citizen journalists need to establish their creds. BUt there is a difference between questioning and lying by implication in order to gag the opposition. Brazilians are not children, The know that violence, agitprop. dubious rumors, divide an conquer moves are as old as dirt. They can ask the  big question, who is behind the JB story? Who finances the conspiracy theorists? Who gains from demonizing Brazilians who can read the  news in Portuguese and pass it on in English to the free press of the First World? You can agit, but you better be able to prop your accusation with facts, guys. Brazilians are smart. They can see through you.

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