In October 2010, Brazil held its sixth consecutive presidential and general elections since the reinstatement of democracy in 1985. About 130 million Brazilians, two-thirds of the country’s population, were eligible to vote, a mandatory civic duty. Up for election were the President, the governors of all 26 states and of the federal district of Brasília; all 513 federal deputies; 54 senators (two-thirds of the total); and 1,057 delegates to the 27 state assemblies. Dilma Vana Rousseff, the Workers Party (PT) candidate, won a runoff election against the Social Democrat Party candidate, becoming the first woman president in Brazil.
Dilma had previously served as the Minister of Mines and Energy and the Executive Chief of Staff, a cabinet-member position, in President Lula’s administration. Rousseff took office on January 1, 2011 and prioritized growth with equity policies to eradicate poverty and fiscal austerity. President Rousseff was also a vocal defender of human rights and promoter of social inclusion, most notably gender equality. Within the first year of her government, several cabinet ministers resigned at Rousseff's urging due to accusations of graft.
More than a million protesters marched in upwards of a hundred cities across Brazil on 20 June 2013, including at least 300,000 in Rio de Janeiro alone, where police fired tear gas to contain the crowds. Protesters also stormed the foreign ministry in the capital, Brasilia, throwing burning objects and firecrackers into the building before being repelled by police. The demonstrations were the latest in a flurry of protests over the previous week that fed on widespread frustration with poor public services, police violence and government corruption. The protests, organized mostly by university students through snowballing social media campaigns, marked the first time that Brazilians had taken to the streets on such a large scale since economic volatility and a corruption scandal led to the toppling of corrupt President Fernando Collor de Mello in 1992.
The masses that mobilized protested against the high cost of living, corruption and government mismanagement. It's especially young people - not the very poor, not the extremely rich, but people in between. People who work, study or do both. The level of education in public schools is still very low and quality healthcare is only available to the wealthy. Some analysts say the protests were fueled by a middle class which has grown to 40 million people, and business centers in the south of the country that resent being heavily taxed to pay for government handouts to the poor. There has been a sense that the people who really run the country financially - the south and southeast - are getting the short end of the stick with lousy schools, terrible transportation, terrible medical care and a growing sense that Brasilia, Rousseff and her Workers Party [PT] really don’t care about Sao Paulo, the south and the southeast of the country. There is little the government can do in the short term to address the protesters’ demands. The Brazilian government’s reversal of the transport fare hikes that sparked nationwide demonstrations has done little to appease the protesters.
Christopher Garman and Clifford Young wrote that "... it’s no coincidence that the protesters tend to be more from the upper middle class. It is precisely this segment of society that has been hit the hardest with the escalating cost of living in large cities. ... with heightened prosperity voters have turned their attention to other priorities, most linked to quality of life issues such as healthcare, education, transportation and public safety.... Such a trend is evident in polling data. In 2005 nearly 60 percent of the public considered issues surrounding jobs and income to be their main concern. The sum of issues surrounding quality of life issues, like healthcare, transport, crime and education, were front and center for only a bit over 20 percent of the population. By 2013 the tables turned entirely, with concern over jobs dropping to 30 percent, and issues of the quality of life surpassing that of jobs and income."
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff held an emergency cabinet meeting June 21, 2013 to discuss an intensifying protest movement that had not slowed despite government concessions. Rousseff is a former leftist guerrilla who was imprisoned for bank robbery and tortured by military dictators in her youth. During prime time on the evening of 21 June 2013, the Brazilian president repeated her support for the people's right to protest, invoking her own experiences as a protester against the military dictatorship which ended in 1985. Lawmakers would draft a plan to improve public transportation, she said, adding that she supported funding education with royalties from Brazil's oil reserves.
The government would also address shortages in the health care industry by bringing in thousands of doctors from abroad [just where she will find thousands of Portuguese-speaking doctors eager to move to Brazil was unclear - as of 2010 there were only 42,000 authorised doctors in all of Portugal, compared to 360,000 in Brazil]. But by 08 July 2013 the Brazilian government dropped plans to import a contingent of Cuban doctors, and instead began looking to hire physicians in Spain and Portugal. The plan to bring in Cuban doctors created a backlash after Brazilian medical associations argued that standards at Cuba's medical schools were lower than in Brazil and equivalent in some cases to no more than a nursing education.
The focus of demonstrations shifted to sharp criticism of the government's $10 billion (7.5 billion euros) spending on the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games instead of funnelling the funds into health care and education, or curbing Brazil's high crime rate. President Dilma Rousseff on June 18, 2013 sought to defuse a massive protest movement sweeping Brazil, acknowledging the need for better public services and more responsive governance as demonstrations continued in some cities around the country. Speaking the morning after more than 200,000 Brazilians marched in over a half-dozen cities, Rousseff said her government remains committed to social change and is listening attentively to the many grievances expressed at the demonstrations.
Concessions and a call for calm by Brazilian President Rousseff did not deter protesters who again took to the streets on Saturday June 22, 2013. About a quarter of a million [150,000 by other estimates] anti-government demonstrators have taken to the streets in several Brazilian cities. Over 60,000 demonstrators chanted and waved banners in Belo Horizonte, where police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters. Smaller rallies took place in several other cities. Some of the protests focused on the billions of dollars being spent for Brazil to host next year's World Cup, this month's Confederations Cup as well as the 2016 Olympic summer games. The demonstrations began on 06 June 2013 [some sources report June 11] as an outcry against a 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares. Protests against a 20 centavo [US$0.09] increase in public transit prices in Sao Paulo soon spread across a number of cities.
President Dilma Rousseff's approval rating sank by 27 percentage points in the last three weeks of June, the evidence the recent wave of protests sweeping Brazil posed a serious threat to her re-election in 2014. The share of people who consider Rousseff's administration "great" or "good" plummeted to 30 percent from 57 percent in early June, according to a Datafolha opinion poll published in local newspaper Folha de S.Paulo on 29 June 2013. The drop was the sharpest for a Brazilian leader since 1990, when Fernando Collor froze all savings accounts in a desperate attempt to stop hyperinflation. The move outraged the population, and within two years Collor resigned the presidency as Congress moved to impeach him over corruption allegations.
The unrest came at a delicate time for Rousseff, whose administration was struggling to rein in high inflation and get the economy back on track after two years of sluggish growth. Polls initially showed Rousseff remained widely popular, but her approval ratings have begun to slip for the first time since taking office in early 2011. According to the CNI/IBOPE poll, the president’s approval ratings dropped from 79 percent to 71 percent between March and June 2013. The socialist-leaning government of President Rousseff may be unable or unwilling to cut programs for the poor to appease the middle class, and this issue will be at the center of the 2014 presidential election.
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