Tag Archives: bus

“And you shall see that thy son will not shy away from the fight”

That is the part of Brazil’s National Anthem that always brings shivers down my spine.

Which was the verse my next door neighbour – hardly a young man – sprayed on a bedsheet and placed on his window this afternoon.

And the verse which was repeated ad nausea in the demonstrations.

São Paulo had 30.000 40.000 people on the streets. Apparently calmer than the previous demos – no rubber bullets and no tear gas this time. No such luck in Belo Horizonte or Ro de Janeiro, from what I have been reading. I am still checking the facts, will write a better report tomorrow,. I read the crowd invaded the Senate building in Brasilia, but that isn’t exactly a mighty feat – other demos have taken that route before. But it is still meaningful, nevertheless…

But this blog is about Sampa, and in Sampa things are going wild. They even managed to make Largo da Batata look beautiful for the first time in its existence!

Image

To quote again the National Anthem:

You shall see that thy son shall not shy away from battle

Nor does he, who loves thee, fear death itself.

***

My husband, The Brainy Bloke, mentioned that there isn’t a clear objective for the marches anymore. “It’s just a yell. But that will be heard by the political class: the society is more than fed up and temperature is rising”.

 

I can only hope so.

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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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Twenty Cents’ War

Might as well begin by explaining that the public transport service in São Paulo is, by lack of a more refined word, a bit of a joke. The buses are usually late, dirty, hot (only the lines going through “posh” areas such as Paulista Avenue have air conditioning) and crowded.  The subway (known as Metrô), though it’s cleaner than the buses, doesn’t cover much ground and can be just as packed, especially on the rush hour.

11 million people daily, present company included, use this rickety system and make do with it complaining all the way, as one does in big cities. And we pay dear for it: R$ 3 for a single fare (roughly US$ 0,50). It is a lot of money in a city where a snack and a drink in the city centre can cost at least R$ 7. Yep. That expansive.

At the beginning of the month, the Mayor of São Paulo announced the prices would go up to R$ 3,40 (US$ 1,58) for the single fare. Groans and protests followed, as expected. The mayor reduced the raise to R$ 3,20 (US$ 1,48) after an agreement with the federal government. It has to be stressed that the transport services are managed by third parties and subsided by the Prefecture, so any raises to the fares, in theory, has to be amortized by the government, to the happiness of the bus companies and the disgust of the general public.

Did you ever hear that story about the straw that broke the camel’s back? Well, those twenty cents broke the city’s back.

***

It has to be said that public demonstrations in Brazil are still viewed with suspicion. The shadow of the military junta that governed the country from 1964 to 1985 is still around, and any sort of organized march is seen as a threat to security and – the supreme abhorrence to a paulistano – a threat to the traffic. So, anyone thinking of protesting outside Facebook has to face the opprobrium of their fellow citizens and be prepared to face truculence from the police.

Nevertheless, some groups organized a demonstration in the city centre to protest against the raises. It was a mostly peaceful do, according to eyewitnesses. Some excesses have occurred, s in any big movement: trashcans were set on fire, the traffic was disrupted in some areas. The police responded to all that with tear gas and rubber bullets. The mainstream press started to say that the demonstrators were hooligans and that they should not be tolerated, thus commending the acts of the policemen as keepers of the order and the peace.  Two more protests were staged in the same week, culminating with a big fight on Thursday where about 240 people were arrested, according to official numbers.

The official line insisted on hooliganism, but the social media told a different story. Videos of the police shooting on knelt protestors, spraying people’s eyes with pepper spray and aiming at the press swamped the Brazilian Internet services. A reporter from São Paulo’s biggest newspaper was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet. People living in areas close to the fight narrated scenes of chaos and violence. A journalist was ridiculously arrested in possession of wine vinegar (used as an antidote to the tear gas), which prompted the nicknames Salad Uprising or Vinegar Revolution to the protests. Trust the Brazilians to come up with jokes at times like these.

Suddenly, it wasn’t about the twenty cents in the bus fare, but also against the scenario in which the raise in the fare was placed: a world where the World Cup is costing about R$ 33 billion to the taxpayers, and few will be able to watch the game; a place where the buses are expansive, dirty, crowded; a place where the police feels free to let hell break loose, while both the Governor and the Mayor are abroad (in France, trying to bring the Expo 2020 to São Paulo).

There’s another demonstration booked this coming Monday, and I honestly don’t know how things will end.  If one thinks that the Arab Spring began because of a harassed fruit seller in Tunisia, and ended up sweeping the Gulf by storm, perhaps these twenty cents will be the reason to a change in a city not used to stand up for its rights. Or maybe I’m being too optimistic. But I’ll hang on to that for a while.

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