Before the Storm

São Paulo is eerily quiet on Sundays. Bereft of the traffic and under grey skies, the streets at the city centre look like a scenario of an atomic winter movie. People usually stay home, or go visit the relatives for lunch. Away from the busy trading centres, the stores are closed and you can hear the wind blowing dust in the asphalt.

The aftermath of the week’s demonstrations can be seen in the shape of graffiti on the walls: “R$ 3,20 is robbery”, “fascist police”, “There will never be love in this f***ing town ever again”, a pun on a hit song called ‘Não Existe Amor in SP’ (There is no Love in SP). Some ads regarding the Confederations Cup on the bus stops have been defaced as well.

Speaking of the Confederations Cup… It began yesterday with Brazil playing against Japan at Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasília. Mrs Dilma Rousseff, the president, was of course present. And was throughout booed by the crowd – I don’t know whether that got across in the international broadcast. Everyone in a position of power was pretty much booed off stage at the opening, including Mr José Maria Marin, the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF in Portuguese), accused of being an ally of the former military regime, and whom is as unpopular as the plague in the country.

The fact that Mrs Rousseff was arrested and tortured during the junta years, and that Mr Marin was present at her side on the opening game, must have been the biggest elephant in the presidential tribune. There was a herd of elephants present, enough to make the place a savannah of awkward situations: the Mané Garrincha stadium, recently refurbished at a big cost, had throngs of empty seats all over; there were demonstrations outside the stadium and that the police, again, reacted with tear gas.

In the end, Brazil won three-nil, and it was an entertaining game all in all – Neymar’s first goal was indeed a thing of beauty like I haven’t seen in a good while. But try as we might, the most pressing subject wasn’t football but the newest protests against the bus fares booked for this coming Monday in São Paulo.

Driving around the city centre today, I noticed the famous stillness before the storm forming – in the graffiti walls, in the messages circulating over the social media sites (what to bring and what not to bring; phone number of lawyers helping the cause; what to do if approached by the police), in the cover of the weekly magazines still focusing on the damaged caused by the riots on the traffic and the general peace of the city, but unable to hide the fact that the uprising has some popular back-up, especially among the younger set – and that the so-called Salad Uprising was spread to other countries as well.

Whatever comes, we will have to deal with it. Tomorrow is going to be a heck of a busy day.

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