Since June 2013, thousands of people have marched through the streets of Brazil demanding improvements to public transportation, health and education, and in opposition of excessive public spending ahead of the Brazil 2014 World Cup, which will take place from June 12 to July 13.
The first protests started in São Paulo, opposing hikes in public transportation fees announced by the city government last May. Since then, millions of people have taken to the streets throughout the country demanding improvements to public health, education, and transportation services, and objecting to the amount of funds going to the football championship, estimated at US$14 billion to improve stadiums and airports.
Police repression and the violent backlash from demonstrators have left a dozen dead and many injured since protests began nine months ago, according to the Independent Media Center. Cameraman Santiago Ilídio Andrade, of the Rede Bandeirantes network, died on February 10 while covering protests after being hit in the head by a firecracker apparently thrown by a protester against the police.
Street violence has led to politicians demanding a “firm hand” be used against protesters, including punishment for alleged acts of terrorism, as well as a ban on wearing masks in demonstrations.
Following Andrade’s death, attorney Pedro Abramovay, who worked with the government of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), sent a public letter to ruling party Senator Jorge Viana, of the Workers’ Party, criticizing the bill introduced last November that criminalizes terrorism and sets high prison sentences for those who contribute to acts defined as terrorism.
For Abramovay, the bill “will not bring any concrete benefit to the Brazilian population and can generate enormous biases in our democracy.”
“Broad definitions of terrorism with high prison sentences such as those we’re seeing in the bill that is about to be voted on in the Senate do not counteract terrorism in an efficient way. But they are very useful to persecute political opponents,” Abramovay said.
“Brazil resisted the wave of relaxation of the rights imposed by a foreign — and political — counter-terrorism agenda. The risk we face now is that Brazil will usher in a new era, that to face a new kind of protest which is happening in a similar manner around the world, the solution is to follow the beaten path of the war on terror,” he added.
Abramovay warned Viana that the law is not a deterrent, that “approving the criminalization of terrorism in Brazil will not bring greater security. Nobody will stop terrorist acts based on the law.”
President Dilma Rousseff, who despite the protests has a 55 percent approval rating, according to polling by Ibope, will try for reelection on October 5. An Ibope survey published March 20 puts her in first place among would-be voters, with 23 percent, but in a second round, she would handily win over other candidates.
This article first appeared on the Latinamerica Press. Click here to go to the original.