On Sunday, April 12, over 200,000 Brazilians marched through Sao Paulo to show their resistance to the exploitation of working and middle class citizens.
Brazilian sophomore Sameah Villaça, who is from Belo Horizonte, has been involved in protests in the past. In her experience, the protests are not as malicious or riotous as one might think — instead, Brazilians use this opportunity to show their nationalism and, in this specific case, their unity against the government. “I have not heard of anybody using force – neither (citizens) nor the government … The government hasn’t been repressing it, but they are trying to ignore it.”
The main reason for the protesting involves Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and her cooperation in the government’s corruption scandals. Rousseff, who succeeded former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has helped Brazil move forward in some ways, but not without reaping some of the benefits for herself. The government has been gleaning massive amounts of money from businesses, like their lucrative oil company Petrobas, and pocketing the wealth, in addition to schemes in which their Congress was found buying votes. Rousseff, who was in full knowledge of the scandals, did nothing to stop it, even though she had the power to do so. For this reason, and others, protesters are rallying for her impeachment.
What makes things difficult is that there is nothing in Brazil’s legislation that specifically says that a president can be impeached for alleged corruption. There is no hard, cold evidence to validate such a move, although the whole nation seems to be up in arms about her unscrupulous leadership.
It is hard to say what will happen next, but Villaça believed that Rousseff’s party, the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Worker’s Party), will fade out due to the massive amounts of people who are in opposition to the government.
Native Brazilians in the states have been keeping abreast with the ongoing situation at home. “I heard about them a couple months ago,” said
alumna Carolyne Razzo ’14, whose family is in Limeira, a city in the state of São Paulo.
This issue raises varying opinions across the board, and being a Brazilian in the US provides a unique perspective. Razzo, who moved to Chicago after graduating from Wheaton last year, shared her thoughts on the issue in her country back in Brazil. “I think this is more ‘the government against its own people’. Lies instead of truth — an incredible lack of transparency and honesty. Even though this all kind of exploded now, I don’t believe this was started by PT. Corruption has been a huge part of Brazilian history. From colonialism to our ‘independence’ to recent days, I don’t believe the government and its people ever had a good, transparent relationship. PT just happens to make these issues more visible to the Brazilian people (and the world).”
Villaça shared similar sentiments. “Our problem is that the legislative branch (of government) is so corrupt. We have to have a political reform that will put in place more efficient checks and balances, and more efficient anti-corruption methods.” Villaça believes that Rousseff is somewhat part of the problem, but there’s an even deeper matter at hand that needs to be addressed. “(We need to)fight corruption at its roots … there are some very grassroots corruptions happening in the local government, Congress, and the Assembly.”
Stephanie Ribeiro, a senior who is also from Brazil, stressed the importance of Americans engaging in the goings-on around the world. “The Brazilian church and the global church could be praying for the leaders of Brazil way more — (myself) included,” Ribeiro said. “It’s so easy to lose hope and to become indifferent, but we need to pray for those in power, and to intentionally cultivate a desire and hope for his justice in my country and the world at large.”
By learning about the political issues in other nations, Americans often can learn something about the mechanisms of political-social relations in our own country.
“Politics and political ideologies exist everywhere, and people deal with that reality in different ways,” Villaça said. “And in Brazil, what we’re seeing is really just a breakdown in communication and people not being able to sit down and talk about the issue — which is corruption — because they are too worried about dividing people into these two categories: liberal or conservative; socialist or capitalist. And that’s awful for the population because they do end up putting people into boxes without really talking about the true issue. And I see that happening a lot in the US too.”
“I think this issue should matter to Wheaton College because Wheaton is part of this world,” Razzo said. “I know that sounds really simple, but I think that when we are at Wheaton, we tend to forget that, and (we) end up not engaging enough in issues of the world. We forget that (world issues) are Wheaton’s issues as well. If corruption exists in this world, what makes us think that Wheaton is immune to that?”
Even though Wheaton College is not the most diverse institution, there still are a number of students who come from different backgrounds. “If you know someone that is from the context of the issue you are looking into, go talk to them!” Razzo said. “Ask them questions! Personal insights and social, historical context are, in my opinion, the main key to engaging in any issue of this world.”