Dilma Rousseff: Brazil Protests Might Be Too Much For President to Handle


The discrepancy between Dilma Rousseff's official statements concerning the massive populist revolts throughout Brazil and the violent reaction of the police is alarming. While Rousseff voices positive encouragement for the demonstrations — saying that "the size of yesterday's marches is evidence of the strength of our democracy" and that "these people must be heard" — the police are resorting to brutal tactics to silence the protesters. In light of the police violence, Rousseff's credibility and sincerity as a leader of an emerging international superpower suffers significantly.

The mayor of São Paulo, Fernando Haddad, is reportedly willing to lower bus fare rates if he can account for the resulting loss in state revenue. Other major Brazilian cities are going to lower rates regardless of the economic aftermath, according to talks on Tuesday. These promises are hardly soothing because the demands of the protesters far surpass concerns over transportation. Protestors are enraged over the high cost of living, low sanitation standards, educational standards, police brutality, and the apparent disregard for these issues in favor of public funding for the upcoming World Cup in 2014 and Olympic Games in 2016.

Rousseff and her regime are ill-equipped to properly handle the situation at hand. Flashy speeches, handshakes, and smiles on the global stage fail to hide the gritty violence on Brazil's streets. Countless videos and accounts showcase Brazilian citizens' senseless abuse at the hands of the government. Rubber bullets, batons, stun guns, and pepper spray were used to suppress the demonstrators in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. Fancy words and nice suits mock the reality of the protests. This is especially ironic since Rousseff began her political career as a Marxist guerilla in the 60s and 70s before she was elected on January 1, 2011 as president and leader of Brazil’s Workers' Party.

On some level, Brazil’s government is aware of the tragic irony — Rousseff's Secretary General Gilberto Carvalho said in a congressional hearing that "It would be pretentious to say we understand what's going on … If we are not sensitive we'll be caught on the wrong side of history." However, talk is cheap.

The Rousseff administration is on its way to dealing with the concerns of protesters, but is failing to take substantial steps towards resolving the plethora of fundamental issues that plague its people. Rousseff and other key leaders are acting out of fear, not out of respect for the demands of their constituents. Some governors are asking for reinforcements from the National Force while Rousseff attempts to quell unrest before Brazil's presidential election next year; her approval rating is steadily dropping, and many protestors call for her removal from office. A recent poll indicates that while her approval rating was at 79% in March, it has dropped to 71% this month. The government must undergo lasting and substantial reform in order to truly get to the root of these protests, starting with lower costs for transportation, food, and other necessities, more efficient sanitation and waste removal procedures, and an improved educational system. Whether or not the government is truly willing to undergo significant change remains to be seen.