Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Fight for the Right to Public Transportation - Free and with Quality - under Control of Workers in Brazil

Reblogged from Brazilian revolutionary blog elmundosocialista

The Free Pass Movement (MPL-in Portuguese) is a Brazilian social movement that advocates the adoption of zero tariff for transportation. The movement was founded on a session at the World Social Forum in 2005, in Porto Alegre-Brazil.

For some years the nationwide Free Pass Movement, has spoken against the increase in bus fares. They did not receive called attention from the press.  The corporate media would give just 5 seconds in TV newscasts.  During the middle of the second term of the Lula government  Increased fares bothered, but did not cause anger.  Inflation, even when manipulated and  with currency debased, the crisis appeared to be under control, with the dollar’s value artificially lowered by Obama’s policy of flooding the world economy with dollars. Since 2008 in the U.S. and in Europe the crisis was already a harsh reality, hundreds of thousands of layoffs in the public and private sector on both sides of the Atlantic. But Brazil seemed as if it were not part of this planet.  While Greece, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus ( the smaller  economic countries in Europe) seemed  from another world and we (in Brazil) had nothing to do with it.  The images and news came from these countries, the  general strikes in France, Italy,Greece etc,  but here the Brazilian population felt a kind of a relief not to be at the center of this crisis.

But recent events have been warning us that we would not be immune to the global economic crisis.  Decline in GDP, industrial growth stagnated, mild increase in the value of the dollar, retreat of the interest rate by the Central Bank of Brazil, public investment and private investment are almost frozen.  Heavy layoffs in the manufacturing sector, including high-tech as the Embraer plant (making military aircraft) in São José dos Campos. Definitely the government of Dilma Rousseff did not maintain the financial stability from its predecessor Lula da Silva, and does not have the same ease that the former President had to hold the mass movements and even some sectors of union leaders under the tutelage of his party, the PT. The number of strikes has increased considerably in the last twelve months. The Brazilian economic miracle touted internationally as revenue had something similar to the industrial centers of China – good rates of employment among the low wages and controlled inflation (or manipulated). So the strikes were necessary for the workers, not to lose even more purchasing power, or only to get some small crumbs.  But even these strikes were controlled by the unions bureaucracy of PT – PcdoB-PSB-PSOL and even Morenist  PSTU-LIT (in Sao Jose dos Campos).

In recent months what we see is an increase in violence in the country side, especially the land dispute between landowners and indigenous communities. There is a growing sector of the extreme right taking up more space with their diatribes xenophobic, racist, homophobic, and a wistful nostalgia for the  military dictatorship. The president of the “Human Rights Commission” in the House of Representatives, Marcos Feliciano, is a Protestant minister (from the Church Assembly of God) who has a lot in common with the TEA PARTY (a radical sector of the U.S. right) , when he stated that Africa is a continent cursed by God he caused an immense upheaval of the Black Movement.

In Conclusion:  the last twelve months of official inflation reached, as the government says, to 6.5 percent.  Taking into account that this index is manipulated (not only in Argentina), it may be at least double of that. The beans, staple food in Brazil increased from an average of 4R$ the kilogram two years ago to 8R$  this month. The poorest people still live with “Family Purse Bonus” (a food program from the Federal government for the poorest family not to starve), but  it does not solve the problem of poverty.  Thousands of poor are being evicted from areas near the football (soccer)stadiums with the complicity of the State and Federal government on behalf of the 2014 World Cup in Football.  And the press are unashamed and boast that more than 1 billion dollars of government finance are being sent to the national and international capitalist entrepreneurs, to the delight of FIFA and the bourgeoisie that controls the sectors of Construction, tourism, hotels, etc.

In this context,  six months after the inauguration of the new mayors of thousands of Brazilian cities, they announced an increase in ticket prices of public transport (controlled by the private sector).  Time limits were placed on the Movement Free Pass, which previously had no expression.   This sparked the calls for nationwide protests which were answered with popular support that Brazil has not seen since the end of military dictatorship, when millions of people took to the streets demanding the right to direct and secret vote for president. The proposed increased fare is only a few cents. In São Paulo the jump is from  RS 3.00 to R$3.20, but for the urban worker, who already receives a low salary, of which the purchasing power is already been eaten by inflation, with out any compensatory or real salary increase, the worker feels in his pocket all the  increase of general prices and especially that of public transport which he needs to  go to work everyday to ensure  his little salary, this increase was the last straw.

Extreme repression by the military security of the protests has happened these past few days (mostly last day 13/06).  It matters little  traditional rightist governments (PSDB-PMDB) and the Popular Front governments (PT-PCdoB) are equally brutal. The Mayor of the city of São Paulo, Fernando Haddad from the PT (Popular Front), and the state government of São Paulo Geraldo Alckmin from  PSDB( traditional right wing) committed  one of the most violent repressions on   the popular movement  against the rise  transportation prices that is  only compared to Tahrir  Square of Egypt’s Mubarak and now the Erdogan government in Turkey. The simultaneous images on television in Turkey Taksim Square and the images of repression in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are symbolic showing who bourgeois state serves: just the bourgeoisie! The police arrested  230 protesters,  some were arrested simply because they were carrying bottles of vinegar to ward off the tear gas. Justice system made tough measures, most have been released, but the few who remain in prison (at least 4) were charged with conspiracy and destruction of Public Property, and the bail is 20 thousand reais (about ten thousand dolars). They Are political prisoners!

Everything indicates that the violent repression is the government shooting itself in the foot. The more they increased the repression, the more people are joining the movement in these four manifestations. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday.

  • No to  the increase of prices for public transportation! 
  • Immediate and unconditional freedom for all political prisoners! 
  • Free Pass and nationalization of transport companies! 
  • Transportation has to be  public and  under control of the workers
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