Have you seen the latest protests on the streets of Sao Paulo Brazil? The government and media are trying to tell the world these protests are due to twenty-cent increases in bus fares in Sao Paulo, but these protests are happening all over the country. The fare hike was just the spark. Here are the real reasons behind the bonfire that has united middle-class citizens in cities all over Brazil:
Lack of healthcare
Protestors are also gathering in front of the new sports stadiums built for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic games, which will be held in cities across the country. Brazilians want the basic needs met like reasonable healthcare, education and a government free of corruption – not $600M soccer stadiums that won’t be used after these events are over. Here’s a video from a Brazilian hospital that has just one doctor on staff in the entire facility. Nurses are paid $250USD per month, which is even less than the menial $350USD per month minimum wage. People are literally dying while waiting to be seen, all while the government presides over one of the largest and most recently discovered oil fields in the world. The money from this oil is being used to build soccer stadiums and government buildings rather than healthcare, education and other basic services.
Not only has the government traditionally been extremely corrupt, now they are attempting to pass a law that protects politicians from investigation or prosecution. Government officials steal millions from government projects, funnel money to family members and murder politicians and reporters who investigate corruption. Some stories are so insane you can’t make them up – such as one popular political tactic in Brazil to drop off a truckload of thousands of left shoes to a poor neighborhood and only drop off the right shoes when the politician is elected.
Bank interest rates
The banks in Brazil would be known as loan sharks in the USA. All brazilian banks charge an effective 323% APR for the average credit card, turning everyday purchases for a Brazilian family into long-term debt.
Consumer goods prices
Imported products cost more in any country, but Brazil escalates this price further by charging a 100% tax on any imported item. Here’s how the math breaks down for imported goods from deodorant to LCD televisions:
1x price for actual product + 1x price for import/sales taxes + 1x price for business profit/operations = 3x price to the consumer
This is why a bottle of sunscreen in Brazil costs 15 USD. Combine these high prices with the 323% APR for a normal credit card and the result is a lifetime of debt just to meet basic household needs.
Lack of college opportunities
I was shocked when I arrived to the USA and found out that most of my friends were loaned money for their college degrees. In Brazil, banks simply won’t make student loans (why would they? At a 323% APR it would never be paid back). If you don’t have a family that can pay cash for your education, then college is simply not a possibility. There are no government programs for college aid. Some universities do have scholarships, but only about two hundred are given out which pales in comparison to the tens of thousands that take the exam!
There are many other genuine reasons for people to protest in Brazil right now, but these are the main reasons why you see so many middle-class citizens and students protesting in the streets. Every big movement has it’s spark. With the Arab Spring, it was the self-immolation of a Tunesian street merchant. These movements aren’t about the spark, they are about the human rights violations and corruption of the leaders in these countries. The bus fare hike was a small spark that woke up a nation of oppressed middle class citizens. Please spread the #changebrazil message and let the world know the truth behind recent protests in Brazil. Here is a video with shocking facts and more motives behind the protests.