Brazil: 30 years of democracy
Mass protests, most recently seen at June's Confed Cup, are a part of Brazil's political culture. It started 30 years ago, when millions took to the streets during the military dictatorship and demanded free elections.
'We want to vote!'
Thirty years ago, a desire for free elections drove millions of Brazilians into the streets. The final phase of the long military dictatorship (1964-1985) began in 1983 with the country's first mass demonstrations. The resistance against political repression developed into a national civil rights movement and call for elections known as "Diretas Ja."
Strike, then govern
Brazil's former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was one of the movement's leaders. Together with trade unionists and leftist intellectuals he founded the Workers' Party (PT) in 1980. His arrest in the same year became a political issue. Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt called for his release and made this a condition of his state visit to Brazil.
Uprising in Sao Paulo
Among the demonstrators' demands were not only free elections, but also the redistribution of land and liberation from foreign debt. One major rally occurred January 25, 1984, in the center of Sao Paulo with about 1.5 million people. Another was April 10 in Rio. Among the protest leaders was not only Lula, but also the future President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Democratic, but corrupt
Only three years after the county's first free election in 1989, Brazilians took to the streets again. This time, their anger was directed against then-President Fernando Collor de Mello. The young politician from the country's northeast, who won the first election with an anti-corruption campaign, was accused of corruption and embezzlement of public funds.
In protest against President Collor, Brazilian students painted their faces green and yellow, the national colors. The demonstrations by the "caras pintadas," ("the painted faces") became a symbol of the nationwide protests that led to Latin America's first constitutional impeachment in 1992.
Latin America's first impeachment was dramatic but without violence. On September 29, 1992, the National Congress of Brazil voted 441 to 38 for Collor's removal. But in a historic televised address, the president refused to recognize the result. Exactly three months later, he gave up his resistance and resigned.
Resistance and truth
On May 16, 2012, at the founding ceremony of the National Truth Commission for the investigation of human rights violations committed during the dictatorship, the former champions for free elections met again. Seen here in Brasília are ex-President Lula da Silva (second from left), current head of state Dilma Rousseff (third from left) and former President Cardoso (third from right).
Shortly before the start of the Confederations Cup in June 2013, a fare increase (of about 10 euro cents) brought the Brazilians to the barricades once again. The price increase for bus tickets in several Brazilian cities sparked the largest mass protests since the end of military dictatorship. The protests also revealed a general dissatisfaction with the government.
"Brazil, wake up!" was the slogan of the demonstrators in Rio de Janeiro on June 20. They called for better schools and hospitals and an end to corruption and violence. Politicians and government officials were not welcome at the rallies; their unfulfilled promises have disappointed protesters.
Burden of the past
More than 20 years after Brazil's first free election, the military police are still in control. During the dictatorship pursued they followed "subversives." Today they're responsible for traffic control and crime prevention. In the recent protests, the officers took on demonstrators with rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray.