While U.S. athletes ready themselves for the 2016 Olympics, protests have exploded in Brazil’s capital days before the games even started. The country’s recent impeachment of President Dilma Rouseff on corruption charges has ignited protests, both pro and anti, within Rio de Janeiro, highlighting the country’s ongoing political crisis. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was charged last Friday in a corruption investigation, while the Senate is expected to remove Rousseff in August or September. In the wake of demonstrations, the political and economic future of Brazil, and its past history with a military dictatorship (1964 – 1985), African enslavement, and the eroding social safety net for Brazil’s millennials, is being questioned.
In an extensive interview with Fader, young people weigh in on the heavy implications of the backdrop of government corruption and the future of their country.
Debora Luisa Freitas da Silva, 26, tells Fader, “It’s not that we’re against the Olympics, but because of the type of politics that have occurred, and the people who need emergency services who aren’t getting them, it has created a critical sense amongst us.” Debora, who lives in the Baixada Fluminense region, argues that she’s not “seeing any benefits for the residents of Rio, specifically those on the outskirts who need public services.” She also notes that the Olympics are the biggest failure that could happen. “We’re only seeing motives driven by money, when we need investment in security, education, and healthcare. So for us, from the metropolitan region, the only thing the Olympics represent is chaos.”
Among those most vulnerable to being shafted from receiving emergency services and investment in security, education, and healthcare are the country’s black population, as told by 28-year-old Guilherme Cabral.
“The black population in Brazil lives in a state of calamity. We have this sense here that human rights are not universal, but something of privilege, which is ridiculous. And the military police [here] think they don’t have to respect human rights,” says Cabral. “And because this person thinks he makes up the armed part of the state, he gets to decide who lives and who dies. There are propositions to demilitarize the police here, but because they’re military police, they go through a completely different judicial process than the civilian police.”
Brazilians of African descent are more likely to face violence in the favelas by military police in large part because young Afro-Brazilians have considerably less accessibility to security due to extreme impoverishment.
The history of enslavement within the country also faces considerable erasure by the Olympics, as noted by Time, a past that Rio has tried to escape. “Slavery is woven into the fabric of the old city,” writes Matt Sandy. “Though the slave wharf and many public records about the extent of slavery have been destroyed, the past—with which Brazil has never truly reckoned – cannot easily be forgotten.”
Izabela Vitória Silvério de Souza, 18, and Pablo Lamar, 27, seem to echo the same dissatisfied sentiment as Debora and Guilherme. “I really hope for a better country, one with less corruption. I can’t stand it anymore, ” says Isabela. “How can they steal so much money and sleep well at night? Luckily, because of the media, we’re getting exposed to everything that’s happening.” Pablo also notes that corruption within the Brazilian government is running rampant. “There were eight years of a lot of stealing, but now there’s more of an awareness of corruption. I think the stealing is going to diminish from here on out. I think even those of the highest rank are falling now.”