A Quick Guide to the Brazilian Protests of 3/13 using Images Shared on Facebook

You are what you share.

A lot of people went to protests against corruption in Brazil this past Sunday
Av. Paulista, São Paulo’s main artery
A big question is who went and why

Supporters of the protests argued they were a legitimate expression of the Brazilian people’s frustration with government corruption. Opponents criticized the protests, claiming they were were overrepresented by a white economic elite more interested in advancing their own political interests than seriously combating corruption.

Some protestors were in fact from the elite
Vice-President of Finances for popular Rio de Janeiro soccer club Flamengo, Claudio Pracownik, accompanies his wife in protests, while a uniformed nanny pushes their children.
Iate Fora Dilma
Caption reads: Protestors go to the streets to protest against Dilma government. Banner reads: Dilma out!
Though this wasn’t necessarily representative of all present

Man carrying cart with children

Some protestors were less concerned with corruption than with what Brazil could become
Menos Venezuela, Mais Argentina
Sign reads: Less Venezuela, More Argentina!! (Brazil’s neighbor to the South recently voted the right-wing Macri into power)
Or with how much of their money was going to the government
Sonegar e legitima defesa
Sign reads: Tax evasion is self-defense!
Or with whom this was benefiting
A Dilma nao foi eleita por pessoas que leem jornais

Shirt reads: Dilma wasn’t elected by the people who read newspapers, but by the people who clean themselves with them. Dilma Out
Or with food?
+ Coxinha - Acaraje.jpg
Coxinha is a fried food typical of São Paulo; acarajé is a fried food typical of the Northeast of the country. This could refer to a Federal investigation of former President Lula for corruption and/or be a swipe against the economically poorer Northeasterners who traditionally make up the PT’s base.
Or with, well… ???
Inconfidente Brasil
Really not sure about the reference. Historical hero Tiradentes? It should be mentioned the homeless are sometimes found murdered in Brazil.
Some were just feeling nostalgic
Porque nao mataram todos
Sign reads: Why didn’t they kill everyone in 1964? (A reference to the coup d’etat that brought a right-wing military dictatorship to power. Many members of the ruling PT had active roles in opposing the dictatorship.)
Main targets of the protests were current President Dilma, former President Lula and the leftist Worker’s Party (PT).
Fora Eu.png
A man dressed as Dilma. Sign reads: Me out
De Grades Abertas
Sign reads: [the city of] Curitiba welcomes Lula with open bars
Aceitamos cartoes.jpg
Inflatable dolls of Dilma and Lula. Banner reads: We accept cards
Main sign reads: PT: Father of Aedes aegyPTi (the main mosquito vector for the Zika virus)
The opposition party didn’t come out unscathed

Governor of Sao Paulo Geraldo Alckmin and Senator of Minas Gerais Aécio Neves, both former presidential candidates from the right of center Social-Democratic Party of Brazil (PSDB), were booed when attempting to participate in the protests, protests which they themselves had supported. Both have been accused of corruption.

Alckmin e Aecio Hostilizados.png
Heading reads: Harassed by protestors, Aécio and Alckmin stay just half an hour on the Paulista
They’re a protest movement in search of a hero. But who do you turn to when everybody is corrupt?
Queremos os Corruptos na Cadeia do PT, PSDP, PQP

Sign one reads: We want all corrupt politicians in jail, from the PT, PSDP, PP or PQP (Wherever the hell they’re from)! Sign two reads: Cunha (the opposition President of the Chamber of Deputies from the PMDB also accused of corruption), we haven’t forgot about you!
A judge?
Super Moro
The first inflatable doll is of Sérgio Moro, the Federal judge leading the current round of corruption investigations.
The police?
Thank you, Federal Police
Shirt reads: Thank you, Federal Police (responsible for investigating corruption)!
The far right?
Jaraleco, bolsanaro, Olavo.jpg
The hashtags on the sign in front say: Olavo (a fringe political writer) is right and Bolsonaro 2018 [for president] (an extremist Deputy for the PP, recently interviewed by Ellen Paige)
The military?
Military Intervention
The sign reads: Military intervention now!! Brazil demands: Order and Progress!!
Donald Trump?

Trump help us

A fast food chain and an Austrian school of economics?
Habib's & Austrians.jpg
Habib’s, a Middle Eastern-style fast food chain, launched a campaign encouraging people to protest.
The Power Rangers?
Power Rangers.png
Sign reads: Heroes against Corruption

Final Thoughts:

More than anything, Sunday’s protests highlighted an underlying trend of increased polarization and mistrust in Brazilian politics. A deteriorating economy and a weakened central government can’t be helping. Those who attended the protests, mostly people from the right, view supporters of the government as good-for-nothing mooching hypocrites who will support the PT’s crimes as long as they get welfare benefits, without any concern for the way the party is apparently driving the country to economic ruin. Meanwhile those who objected to the protests view the opposition as elitist/racist/sexist/paternalistic/etc. hypocrites, uncomfortable with the social changes that the PT has brought about in recent year and unaware or uninterested in the harsh reality of Brazil for the most vulnerable sectors of the country’s population. Both sides are haunted by ghosts: the left by memories of a military dictatorship that only ended 31 years ago and the right by fears of a Castro-style Communist takeover.

The protests also brought out two less-talked-about protagonists: a far right mistrustful of both the mainstream center-right political elite and the center-right mainstream media and an ideologically-unfixed middle mistrustful of politics in general, who only want to see lawbreakers punished and have somewhere to direct their anger. The direction this middle swings the next few years could determine the shape of Brazil’s political landscape.

A few questions remain: How serious of a problem actually is corruption in Brazil relative to other issues like poverty, education and violence? Can it be fought against in a bipartisan fashion? If not, should it be combatted in a partisan fashion regardless?

They are especially important in a political climate where plausibly denying the implications of one’s beliefs takes precedence over responsible coalition building.


Were there any images that I missed? Feel free to share with me in the comments.

Also for an article I did on a different kind of Brazilian protest from 2013, see here.