ND Expert: Brazilian authorities’ blunders fuel protests

Author: Brittany Collins

Guillermo Trejo Guillermo Trejo

By agreeing to increase public transportation fares just two weeks before hosting the FIFA Confederations Cup, coupled with the repressive reaction to protesters by military police in Sao Paulo, Brazilian authorities have transformed a struggle for free transportation into a major wave of protest against political corruption and inequality, according to Guillermo Trejo, University of Notre Dame political scientist and fellow in the Kellogg Institute for International Studies.

“The repressive reaction of the military police — a remnant of Brazil’s dictatorial past — triggered popular indignation and facilitated the transformation of a single protest event into a wave of national mobilization,” says Trejo, who specializes in collective action, social protest and Latin America.

This heavy-handed reaction just days before a major national and international event has exposed Brazil’s lack of preparedness for dealing with such protests.

“It is a time when any dissident act in the streets receives unusual domestic and international attention; it is a time when government authorities from the host country are most vulnerable to popular demands,” says Trejo.

“Similar policy decisions had given rise to popular resistance in other Brazilian cities in 2012 and in the first quarter of 2013. Making an unpopular decision a few days before the country became the summer’s sports focal point was a major policy blunder.”

Trejo also predicts similar protests in advance of the election of Brazil’s new president in 2014.

“In 2014, Brazil will simultaneously hold the World Cup and elect a new president. Like in the case of major international events, election cycles are a magnet for protest. Brazil will face a new major wave of popular protest in 2014. The country is going through the first of many waves of protest it will experience in the coming years. And Brazilian authorities don’t seem to be prepared for this.”

Contact: Guillermo Trejo is available for comment and can be reached at gtrejo@nd.edu.