The Long-Term Results of Protests

Yesterday I left work early to avoid traffic. On the way out, a student asked me if I was not going to protest. I said no, for I had no conviction that he would have any concrete results. She replied that it was because of people like me that the country did not go forward. That made me reflect a bit and think about the history and results of recent popular movements.

I was born in 1979, during the military regime. I did not participate in Direct Already. I was very small. From what I read, the people went the streets asking for direct elections for president, already at the end of the transition of the regime. A constitutional amendment was voted and defeated. There was no direct vote. The electoral college elected Tancredo Neves, who had as vice, Jose Sarney. It was years and more years of inflation and rent transfers of the most distinct via inflationary tax and heterodox packages. We’ve lost a decade, but we’ve won democracy up there.

In short, came the first direct election. I was bigger in this one, but even then it was difficult to understand the political context. Fernando Collor and his deputy, Itamar Franco, were elected. After another unorthodox economic plan, we went the streets again to ask the impeachment of the president involved in corruption scandals. It was the face-painted movement. The lawsuit was filed, but Collor resigned before he was voted. Everyone left with the feeling that Out Collor was worth it.

After that came a democratic period with five direct elections. All of them are filled with corruption scandals, CPIs, blackouts, monthly payments, devaluations, concessions, prisons, allied to all kinds of administrative incompetence, especially in the economic area and in the management of health and education systems. They were about 20 years swelling an incompetent and corrupt public machine. Which has brought us to the present moment, which should go down in history as the 20 Cent Revolt, or something of the sort.

This is the brief history of recent popular movements.

Let us then take the long-term consequences of the first two. We won democracy. That’s really good. But, I think Direct has already had a much less relevant role than they want to make it look like. The military wanted the transition. It was a context in which the return of democracy was planned, it was only a matter of how and when. The movement accelerated this process. This is my reading of what happened. And it was great that we did it. But we have not yet learned to use democracy to elect the right people. It’s as if we had gotten the driver’s license and had a Ferrari in hand. We have no practice driving such a vehicle.

The former president-elect is still there, having been elected senator for more than one state of the nation. He and all his allies. Democracy, when misused, has these. Also in power are the great leaders of the movements against the dictatorship. Contrary to what you would imagine, they are allies of dictators around the world. What about Collor? Oh, it’s still there. He is ally of Sarney, and of those who fought in the dictatorship. And the guys? They are also there. The biggest representative was Lindberg Farias, senator of the republic. Today you live amicably know with whom? Exactly, Fernando Collor. All elected by popular vote.

In my opinion, the message is that this week’s protests may help the country change its course in the short term, but we certainly will not make any major changes if the people do not change their choices. My opinion is that this will not happen. Right there in the front, the people will be electing Barbalhos, Sarneys, Collors, Silvas and many others.

That’s what I wanted to say to my student, but I preferred to let her go on with her innocence and willingness to change.

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