Ideas

Protests In Brazil: A Popular Demand That Makes Perfect Sense

Not just cheap -- but *free* public transport -- deserves a proper public hearing. A look at the irony of those now in power, and their desire to silence legitimate debate.

In Sao Paulo, protesters will not go quietly
Vladimir Safatle*

-Op-Ed-

SAO PAULO - There are different ways of hiding a massive protest. You may do as Rede Globo (Brazil's largest TV broadcaster) did, and not broadcast a major demonstration in favor of Diretas-Já (a 1980s democratic movement), saying people were merely in the streets to celebrate the aniversary of Sao Paulo.

But you may also turn manifestations into a bunch of beautiful images of young people fighting simply for the “right to protest.” Thus, the concrete and precise nature of their demands gradually fade away.

The precision – that's what impresses us the most in the protests against the increase of bus fares, the imposition of a logic that transforms low-quality public transportation into the third largest cost for families.

As Brazil's cities have crumbled into urban castatrophes, shaped by the mafia of property speculators and transportation companies, nothing could be more just than openly discussing the absence of efficient public policies.

However, in a city where the subway system is a target of corruption charges that have reached as far as the courts of Switzerland, and where bus fares are among the world's most expensive, protesters were, until last week, treated either as young people with crazy ideas or simply as vandals who deserved a police lashing worthy of a furious swarm of hogs.

Hardly revolutionary

Many have taken pleasure in ridiculing the proposal of free bus fare. But the original idea was not born from the minds of “stupid proto-revolutionary groups.” It has been the result of working groups within the government Sao Paulo, when ruled by the same Workers Party now in power.

In a deep irony of history, the Workers Party hears from the street the very same radical propositions that it once gave birth to, but that it does not have the courage to turn to reality.

The original proposition included financing subsides for transportation with the gradual increase of property taxes. It could also come from a tax on a household's second car, encouraging upper and middle-class families to take the bus more often, and diminish traffic jams.

In the United States, at least 35 cities, all of them with more 200,000 inhabitants, have adopted public transportation fully covered by subsidies. Hassely, in Belgium, and Tallinn, in Estonia have enacted similar measures.

However, instead of a concrete discussion on the topic, the people of Sao Paulo have heard so far no more than snide commentary against the protesters.

At least it seems nobody is defending a particularly awkward concept of democracy that was adopted last week that equated public manifestations with the “right to come and go.” With this, protests were relegated to the neighborhood of Pico do Jaraguá on the outskirts of the city. Against this, we would like to remind our leaders that democracy is noise.

Those who enjoy silence prefer dictatorship.

*Safatle is a philosophy professor at the University of Sao Paulo

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A tribute to the 30,000 Iranian political prisoners murdered in Iran in 1988

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Laba diena!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Afghanistan's Taliban demand to speak at the United Nations, China takes a bold ecological stand and we find out why monkeys kept their tails and humans didn't. Business magazine America Economia also looks at how Latin American countries are looking to attract a new generation of freelancers known as "digital nomads" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[*Lithuanian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Taliban ask to speak at UN: With global leaders gathered in New York for the 76th meeting of the UN General Assembly, Afghanistan's new rulers say their country's previously accredited United Nations ambassador no longer represents the country, and have demanded a new Taliban envoy speak instead. Afghanistan is scheduled to give the final intervention next Monday to the General Assembly, and a UN committee must now rule who can speak.

• Four corpses found on Belarus border with Poland: The discovery of bodies of four people on Belarus-Poland border who appear to have died from hypothermia are raising new accusations that Belarus is pushing migrants to the eastern border of the European Union, possibly in retaliation over Western sanctions following the contested reelection of the country's strongman Alexander Lukashenko. The discovery comes amid a surge of largely Afghani and Iraqi migrants attempting to enter Poland in recent weeks.

• China to stop building coal-burning power plants abroad: Under pressure to limit emissions to meet Paris climate agreement goals, China announces an end to funding future projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries through its Belt and Road initiative.

• Turkey ratifies Paris climate agreement: Following a year of wildfires and flash floods, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced at the UN that Turkey will become the last G-20 country to ratify the emissions-limiting accords. Turkey already signed the agreement in 2016, but has yet to hold a vote in parliament.

• Mass evacuations following Canary Islands volcano: More than 6,000 people have fled the Spanish archipelago as heavy flows of lava have buried hundreds of homes. Four earthquakes have also hit the Canaries since the Sunday eruption, which could also cause other explosions and the release of toxic gas.

• Rare earthquake hits Melbourne: The 5.9 magnitude quake struck near Melbourne in southern Australia, with aftershocks going as far Adelaide, Canberra and Launceston. Videos shared on social media show at least one damaged building, with power lines disrupted in Australia's second largest city. No injuries have been reported.

• The evolutionary tale of tails: Charles Darwin first discovered that humans evolved to lose this biological trait. But only now are New York scientists showing that it was a single genetic tweak that could have caused this shift, while our monkey relatives kept their backside appendages.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"The roof of Barcelona" — El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world. Work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882 as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. The Barcelona-based daily reports that a press conference Tuesday confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years. Although it is currently the second tallest spire of the complex, it will become the highest point of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated "great cross."

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Latin America, the next mecca for digital nomads

Latin American countries want to cash in on the post-pandemic changes to the fundamental ways we work and live, in particular by capitalizing on a growing demand from the new wave of remote workers and "youngish" professional freelancers with money to spend, reports Natalia Vera Ramírez in business magazine America Economia.

💻🏖️ Niels Olson, Ecuador's tourism minister, is working hard to bring "digital nomads" to his country. He believes that attracting this new generation of freelancers who can work from anywhere for extended visits is a unique opportunity for all. Living in a town like Puerto López, he wrote on Twitter, the expat freelancer could "work by the sea, live with a mostly vaccinated population, in the same time zone, (enjoy) an excellent climate, and eat fresh seafood." For Ecuador, the new influx of visitors with money to spend would help boost the country's economy.

🧳 While online-based freelancers already hopped from country to country before COVID-19, the pandemic has boosted their current numbers to around 100 million worldwide. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates there could be a billion roaming, digital workers by 2050. Some European countries already issue visas for digital nomads. They include Germany, Portugal, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic, but in the Americas, only four countries make the list, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Panama and Costa Rica.

💰 In August 2021, Costa Rica approved a law for remote workers and international service providers, intended to attract digital nomads and make its travel sector more competitive. The law provides legal guarantees and specific tax exemptions for remote workers choosing to make the country their place of work. It allows foreign nationals earning more than $3,000 a month to stay for up to a year in the country, with the ability to renew their visa for an additional year. If applicants are a family, the income requisite rises to $5,000.


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#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$2.1 billion

Google announced yesterday it will spend $2.1 billion to buy a sprawling Manhattan office building, in one of the largest sales of a building in U.S. history. The tech giant plans on growing its New York workforce to more than 14,000 people.

📣 VERBATIM

It is sickening and shameful to see this kind of president give such a lie-filled speech on the international stage.

— Opposition Brazilian congresswoman Vivi Reis in response to President Jair Bolsonaro's inflammatory 12-minute speech at the UN General Assembly. The unvaccinated head of state touted untested COVID-19 cures, criticized public health measures and boasted that the South American country's environmental protections were the best in the world.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank & Bertrand Hauger

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