Anger in Brazil was fuelled by Pelé yesterday, when the footballer spoke out against protesters and told the people to “forget all this commotion happening in Brazil, all these protests, and let’s remember how the Brazilian squad is our country and our blood.”
The 72-year-old's comments came after Brazil's less than average football performances during the beginning of the season.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters have now begun preparing to head back out onto the streets after Pelé made a plea for the World Cup, one of the many issues that had initially ignited protests. The footballer, whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, is now swiftly becoming the subject of anger in the country as protesters turn their frustrations to his ill-advised comments.
People took to social networking sites to express their fury at Pelé, citing the millions it cost to build the stadium, and telling him to visit a hospital himself to see what conditions they are in.
After a week of frenetic protests up and down Brazil, Rio and Fortaleza were the first to begin demonstrations again yesterday, although these were on a smaller scale and much more peaceful. Hundreds tried to reach Fortaleza’s Stelao stadium but were held back by police, before demonstrators changed route and headed towards the city’s airport, where they succeeded in blocking traffic heading towards the airport for approximately two hours. Passengers wishing to travel from the airport were forced to walk.
Approximately 4,000 also marched on a road along Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. No clashes between police and protesters have been reported.
The Globo TV network reported Sunday that the Rousseff government was expected to announce its first concrete response Tuesday: additional funds for a health care program that aims to train more doctors.
The movement, which arose into a sea of complaints of everything that ails the nation, has coalesced around demands for political reform in order to attack widespread corruption. A larger protest is now expected in Brazil as the sudden explosion of discontent and the political awakening of Brazilians continues to create uncertainty as to what the future holds.
The unstable and unpredictable events have left everyone from President Dilma Rousseff to the public bewildered. The future becomes even more uncertain when considering that Brazil is hosting the Confederations Cup football tournament and has a papal visit next month, the World Cup next year and the Summer Olympics in 2016.
The protests kick started more than a week ago in Sao Paulo and have quickly enveloped the whole of Brazil. A survey from the National Counties Federation showed that every state in the nation had a protest of some sort in 438 counties, with the apex happening on Thursday when one million took to the streets to rally against corruption.
“The protests will go on, the people have become politicized,” Marcos Mahal, a 47-year-old economist, said during a protest in Sao Paulo. “The violence that we saw this week was carried out by marginal groups attempting to demoralize this people's movement, but it won't be successful. The peaceful masses will carry on.”
A new poll said 75 per cent of citizens support the demonstrations. The survey, published by the weekly magazine Epoca was carried out by the respected Ibope institute, which interviewed 1,008 people across the country June 16-20.
Despite the overwhelming support for the protests, 69 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with their lives and optimistic of the future. The nation has nearly full employment and has seen 40 million people move into its definition of 'middle class' in the past decade.
But since registering 7.5 per cent economic growth in 2010, Brazil's expansion slipped to just 0.9 per cent last year. While Brazil has largely buffered itself from the global financial crisis on the back of domestic consumer spending, those who bought heavily on credit in recent years are stretched thin.
Inflation is ticking up and Brazil has a high cost of living, in large part because of government inefficiency in improving basic infrastructure such as roads, ports, railways and airports. That makes it more costly to produce goods and move them to consumers.
Brazilians also pay more taxes than any nation outside the developing world — 36 per cent of gross domestic product.
For those sick of woeful health care, education, transportation and security, heavy spending on the Confederations Cup and the World Cup to follow have added to dissatisfaction. Brazil's World Cup will be the most expensive yet, with the government spending more than $13 billion.
At the watershed demonstration 17 June in Sao Paulo, protesters shocked themselves by amassing tens of thousands of people for the first time in two decades. Dentist Sandra Amalfe marched with her 16-year-old daughter and echoed the complaints of many: “We need better education, hospitals and security — not billions spent on the World Cup.”
The protests originally began as a way of expressing opposition to bus and subway fare increases, then became a laundry list of complaints over high taxes, poor services and World Cup spending, before coalescing in recent days around the issue of corruption that many believe contributes to those woes.
Many protesters were not appeased by a prime-time television address Friday night by President Dilma Rousseff, who said peaceful demonstrations were welcome and emphasized that she would not condone corruption. She said she would meet with movement leaders, if any could be located from the as-yet leaderless masses, and create a plan to improve urban transportation and use oil royalties for investments in education — both recycled plans that have been put forth in some fashion before.
“Dilma is underestimating the resolve of the people on the corruption issue,” said Mayara Fernandes, a medical student who took part in a march in Sao Paulo. “She talked and talked and said nothing. Nobody can take the corruption of this country anymore.”
On Saturday, protesters denounced legislation before congress that would limit the power of federal prosecutors to investigate crimes, a move many fear would hinder attempts to jail corrupt politicians.
Federal prosecutors were behind the investigation into the biggest corruption case in Brazil's history, the “mensalao” cash-for-votes scheme that came to light in 2005 and involved top aides of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva buying off members of congress to vote for their legislation.
Last year, Brazil's Supreme Court convicted two dozen people in the case, which was hailed as a watershed moment in the country's fight against corruption. But the defendants have yet to be jailed because of appeals, a delay that has enraged Brazilians.
“It was good Dilma spoke, but this movement has moved too far, there was not much she could really say,” said Victoria Villela, a 21-year-old university student in the Sao Paulo protest. “All my friends were talking on Facebook about how she said nothing that satisfied them. I think the protests are going to continue for a long time and the crowds will still be huge.”
Additional reporting by agencies