17 August 2015

A March Here, A Protest There

I came of age in the '60s and '70s, and as some of you might remember, those were some serious protest years. There was the student movement, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, there were anti-Vietnam marches — remember "Make Love, Not War?" I did my part. And I burned a few bras for the women's movement, too. But I'm terribly averse to large crowds (hey, I saw the last 20 minutes of The Day of the Locust!) and so I admit to having avoided much of the hard core protesting of those years.

Amazing, then, that on my very first trip to Rio de Janeiro in August of 1992 I found myself in the middle of a protest march in favor of the impeachment of Brazil's then-President, Fernando Collor de Mello, who had been accused of influence peddling*. As you can see from the pictures, at first I stayed across the street, ever crowd-averse, but soon I gingerly edged my way deeper in. Hey, this was a Brazilian protest march, much lighter in tone and more fun than the marches I avoided in NYC!

Copacabana Beach, 1992

Even more amazing, though, is that yesterday, some 23 years after participating in that march against Collor, Mark and I were in Rio (this time quite deliberately) to join what was being billed as "the largest protest in the history of Brazil," a protest against every single thing that has fallen off the rotten tree of the current government: against President Dilma, against her political party (the Workers Party), against former President Lula (currently called Luladrão, ladrão meaning thief), and against the ever-growing and mutating Petrobras scandal.**

This protest was a coordinated effort that took place all over Brazil and in various world cities such as Paris, London, Miami, New York and Los Angeles. It was, as we expected it would be, a very Brazilian event: all singing, all dancing, and lots of paz e amor. Did it accomplish what it set out to accomplish? Too early to tell, that will be for all the talking heads to opine about in the weeks to come. In the meantime, I may very well have personally brought down yet one more Brazilian government!

Okay, I was a little leery at first . . .

. . . but then I saw the security . . . 

. . . and made my way into the crowd . . .

It wasn't too hard to mingle!

I even made some new friends!

It was quite a turnout on Copacabana Beach

*Collor ended up resigning in an attempt to stop an impeachment trial, but the trial went forward, he was found guilty, and was disqualified from elective office from 1992 to 2000. Unfortunately, you can take the boy out of politics, but you can't take politics out of the boy, and since 2007 Collor has been serving as Senator from the state of Alagoas. No surprise here, he is currently under investigation in the ongoing Petrobras scandal, and back in July, the federal police impounded a Porsche, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini from Collor's residence. Dirty then, dirty now.

Collor or Dracula — who's scarier?

**The Petrobras Scandal — where to start? Suffice it to say that this is an incredibly complex scheme of kickbacks, bribes, frauds and graft involving employees of Petrobras (Brazil's own once-highly-regarded oil company), presidents of construction companies, high-level government employees, mid-level pigeons, politicians of all stripes, and the always-present string of in-laws and other family members. This scandal is as dirty as a scandal can get, and yet every day we learn it's even dirtier than we thought.

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