Protests in Brazil and Turkey: not much in common. Try Chile instead
Posted by Mauricio Savarese
One of the most basic mistakes in the international perception about Brazilian protests is that they allegedly resemble what is happening in Turkey in the last few weeks. Except for Brazilian tear gas a violence used by both police forces, there isn’t any link between them, no matter how hard protesters in South America try to set the agenda by saying they are comparable to the Turkish movement for more democracy. Even prime-minister Erdogan suggested both emerging countries are being targeted by vicious fans of coups — a bait president Dilma Rousseff didn’t bite. And that is because she is more of a democrat than Erdogan is. Anyone who wants a parallel with the situation in Brazil had better take a look at what happened in Chile in 2011.
Most universities in Chile are private and very expensive. Since the departure of dictator Augusto Pinochet, Chile didn’t build any new public universities. Yet, the number of students increased. Their educational infrastructure just wasn’t good enough. That is how a cry for something most Chileans could relate to became a wave of national protests against inequality. Protesters didn’t care about the improvements, they wanted to take it to the next level. Think of Brazil three weeks ago. It was the country where overcrowded transport systems charged more and more from their users.
Brazil’s addiction to foreign repercussions is one of the reasons why many Brazilians tried to associate with Turkey. Having the 7th most important economy on Earth, the two major sports’ events until 2016 and a story of success in the last decades doesn’t seem to be enough to make the country noted abroad. So many protesters chose to associate with Turkey, since the Middle East gets much more attention from the international media. Only very hot-headed protesters would compare Turkey’s frail democracy with Brazil’s sound and lay institutions.
Brazil’s mainstream politics has embraced the protests. Even the very lazy Congressmen had a rush of blood to their veins and passed new laws on corruption, healthcare and education — those three being the main reasons why people took to the streets. President Rousseff urged for pacts to address their complaints and met leaders of peaceful demonstrations. That is nothing like Turkey, where prime-minister Erdogan labelled protesters as criminals. Also, he is the responsible for the police in Turkey, and Brazil’s Rousseff is not.
Another big difference between Turkey and Brazil is the level of political interest held by the protesters themselves. The Turkish seem to be more modern than many Brazilians on the streets — some use the fight against corruption as a platform to impeach democratically elected leaders just because. The Turkish middle class in the protests seems to be more aware of the state of things there. In Brazil, just like in Chile, there is people joining from all walks of life, but a clear majority is of people who are as out of touch with the country as the political system itself.