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Angry At Brazil's Government, Protesters Take To The Streets


Just because a government is democratically elected does not mean it is immune to protest. We've been watching demonstrations and the government response in Turkey. And now the demonstrations we're about to hear about took place in Brazil.


INSKEEP: That's some of the sound from last night as tens of thousands of people took to the streets across the country, marching against government corruption and also spending on next year's soccer World Cup, which is to be held in Brazil. The protests were mostly peaceful although there were clashes in Rio de Janeiro and the capital, Brasilia.

NPR's South America correspondent, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, was with the crowds in Brazil's commercial capital Sao Paulo.


LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Brazil has its own protest rhythm. At least in Sao Paulo it beats to the sound of samba.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: But while the demonstrations last night had a party vibe, last week 100 demonstrators were injured after the police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowds. That prompted what began as a relatively modest movement a few days ago, against a rise in subway and bus fares, to snowball into something larger.

We are walking down Faria Lima which is one of the biggest and most affluent streets in Sao Paulo. Last week, there were only a couple of thousand people participating in the protests. This week, there are tens of thousands of Brazilians making their voices heard.

And they say they are here for all sorts of reasons.

BRENDA NEVIS: All the government takes all the money. We see them, like with all the corruption all the time. And we, the public, don't get anything. We just got tired.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Brenda Nevis is an 18-year-old waitress. She has a nose ring, a lip ring and the Brazilian flag painted on her face. She says she may look like she's headed for a soccer match but her message ahead of next years World Cup is don't come here.

NEVIS: People are angry because we see all the money going for the stadiums and we don't see any money going for the public transportation or the health. No World Cup here. So that's one of the things.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Her grievance: Brazil is spending billions of dollars in public money on stadiums that won't benefit the average Brazilian. While Brazil has boomed in recent years, the economy is slowing down and the cost of living is going up. Brazilians pay high rates of tax in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are among the most expensive cities in the world. Transportation though, is terrible, as are healthcare and schools; not to mention the high crime rate.

MARIA LIMA: There is too much impunity; the police doesn't work, the violence and criminality is really high.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's 49 year old real estate agent Maria Lima who came with her 17-year-old daughter and her small white lapdog.

LIMA: We never protest basically, so Brazilians are very pacifist. But now we want to start something - maybe there is something rising here.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Like many other recent global protest movements, this one also organized itself on social media. And some of the participants say they were inspired by what's happening in Turkey.

Thirty-three-year old Will Sampaio was wearing a red clown's nose, as he marched down the street.

WILL SAMPAIO: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: People are beginning to realize that the boom years are over, he says. It's not all parties, carnival and samba, Brazil needs to focus internally, now, he says.

That message has been reflected in recent opinion polls. President Dilma Roussef's popularity has plunged after the release of recent disheartening economic data.

SAMPAIO: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: When asked what his plastic nose was meant to symbolize, Sampaio tells me we see so many people suffer, day to day, and nothing changes he says. I feel like a clown in Dilma Rousseff's circus.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Sao Paulo.


INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.