If you have been following what’s going on in Brazil for the past month, you might be wondering if it’s safe to travel right now, with all the protests. My answer is a resounding YES! and I will tell you why. Keep in mind that I’m here right now (in Rio) with my two kids 5 and under, so if I didn’t think it was safe I would have re-scheduled our trip.
First of all, a bit of background information: the protests aren’t happening every day or in every city. They mostly happened in São Paulo and Rio, then spread to several cities across the country, in mid-June. The protests started when the bus fares increased by 0,20 (which might not seem like a lot but the fares have increased over 400% in a handful of years). The protests weren’t very big by then, but once the police started overreacting and beating up peaceful protesters, everyone watching the cell-phone recorded videos in social media got upset and went to the streets just because we can. Brazil is a democratic country after all, we have the right to protest, and the police shouldn’t be trying to stop a legitimate protest.
Then all the frustration built up by years of rampant corruption came pouring out, and Brazilians flooded the streets to complain about all sorts of issues. There were obviously some people who went overboard, vandalized buildings, and there were some folks who had their own agenda – they used the protests as cover to loot stores. The vast majority of the people there were peaceful, but obviously that’s not what the media thinks it’s newsworthy. Anyway, the bus fares went back down, the much-hated Constitutional Amendment that had been proposed was voted down (PEC-37), and the protests started to simmer down. The FIFA Confederation Cup which just ended last Sunday and the outrageous amount the government has spent building the most expensive stadiums in the world were another source of anger. Every game saw lots of protesters outside the stadiums, one of them cost upwards of 1 billion reais (!). The reason? A ton of money being pocketed by corrupt politicians, of course.
The protests are smaller right now, and not happening as often. They are always scheduled to happen at the end of the day, usually after 5 PM, so people can go after work. So if you are coming to visit, you can go about during the day as usual, and just check with someone at the hotel or taxi drivers if they know of any protest scheduled for that evening, so you can plan around it. Or if you are feeling a bit adventurous, you can check it out (I don’t recommend going with kids, of course). Several of my cousins and friends attended the protests while I was still in the US, and they were all fine – didn’t see any fights, didn’t get close to the police, there were thousands of people on the streets and as I said before, the vast majority was peaceful.
I’ll leave you with a video made by a friend who works for a local newspaper, he attended dozens of protests:
You can search #protestobr and #changebrazil in social media to find the latest information about the protests.
Portuguese word of the day: protesto, protest.