I recently helped Gabi relocate to her new flat in the center of Porto Alegre from the suburbs. It seemed great at first but last night we experienced first hand the violence of the hooligans that are using the Brazilian demonstrations as an excuse to loot and cause senseless destruction. Last night we arrived home and the bank next to Gabi’s 23 floor apartment block had all its shopfront windows shattered. We quickly entered our flat seeing several gang types roaming around us. Fortunately, we did that. See the video
Within 15 mins a group of hoodlum assholes entered the street and began breaking everything breakable and started turning on the residential appartment blocks. House inhabitants were screaming violently and calling the lost and violent kids vagabundas (vegabonds). Our builidng was not spared. The glass entrance windows were completely shattered.
When someone threw a mini molotov cocktail at our building I got very agitated (obviously). Seeing a group of 4 gather behind a large trash container and approach our building like castle invaders I decided to respond. Thus I joined the 100s of other inhabitants in throwing objects at the scumbags. I filled a 2 litre bottle with water and aimed carefully and hurled the object from 22nd floor at the approaching invaders. My bottle and many other objects (glasses, water bombs, other filled bottles, food) landed all over the place. Within seconds the boys scattered and took refuge under trees and rooftops. From there they continue hurling things at surrounding inhabitants and shops.
Where were the police? Telephone line of all emergency numbers was engaged and the police were occupied in the presumably 100s of other scenes where similar outbreaks were occurring Eventually, a convoy of 2 police cars and motorcop approached. The 100 or so bandits ran in all directions….building inhabitants applauded and the police made their magnificent entrance….and drove past…. :/. Bandits continued to circle in the neighborhood and continued their stupidity. Gabi soon got the idea and hurled a rotten tangerine at the crowd and did an impressive job at almost hitting one on the head (it landed 30 cm from him). The guy got quick scared. The hooligans, having things chucked at them from both apartment blocks soon realized that not only is there behavior not heroic they will likely get very hurt. Fortuantely, things eased up in an hour or so….not because of police but because the kids got bored and tired.
So what is the reason for this madness? It started some months ago during my last visit to Porto Alegre. There was a huge successful and largely peaceful demonstration against the extortionary bus fares. The demonstation lead to a 20 cent reduction in bus fares. Now whole Brazil got the idea and Sao Paolo, Rio and Brasilia are all having huge demonstations. This turned into a more widespread upheaval against the poor state of eduction, health and high corruption the country is facing. Brazil has had enough and the people now say
“Now that I got my 20 cents I want my millions that the corrupt officials stole!”
The people are fed up and are angered by the cost of the world cup that not only costs the nation a huge amount but is increasingly looking like it will be a complete failure as Brazil seems unable to complete even its stadiums in time…and nowhere near resolving the huge infrastructure bottlenecks. Hosting the Olympics and World Cup without a significant rethinking of transportation in this country will be a huge challenge. These events may be a failure but they have cast a light on the many underdeveloped aspects of this young and vibrant nation. It acted as a catalyst for change which in the long term is a good thing. Some changes are surprising though….statements saying fuck the world cup coming from a nation hugely infatuated with the sport is hard to believe if I didn’t see it with my own eyes: