Brazil

Truck strike deepens crisis

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At the end of May, Brazil faced the largest strike of truck drivers in its history. Member of left wing party PSOL Jorge Almeida reports on the background to the strike and its likely repercussions.

The majority of Brazil’s cargo transportation is composed of 2.3 million truck drivers, who carry about 60 percent of the goods. So the impact of the 11-day strike, when thousands of trucks were stopped, and more than 500 road blocks were established, was immense. There was a fuel shortage at the gas stations, damaging the day-to-day functioning of the economy. Entrepreneurs estimate a loss of £15 billion.

Brazil in revolt

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Brazil, held up as an economic success story over the last decade, has been shaken by a massive revolt triggered by transport fare rises. Henrique Sanchez and Sean Purdy examine the roots of the rebellion and assess the political challenges ahead

Until quite recently, Brazil was experiencing a climate of euphoria. This was partially because of improvements in the conditions of workers and the poor with low unemployment, a moderate increase in salaries and a popular government income supplement program for the very poorest families.

Turkey, Brazil...Britain?

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In Turkey it was the threat to cut down trees to make way for a re-development project in a park in the centre of Istanbul; in Brazil it was the latest round of fare rises on public transport.

No one could have predicted that these events would provide the flashpoint that would trigger the sudden eruption of mass revolts that with hundreds of thousands on the streets night after night across dozens of cities in both country.

Both the threatened trees in Gezi Park and the rising costs of Brazil's transport system were the focus of pre-existing campaigns. Neither seemed about to unleash mass upheavals. In both cases, a key turning point was the brutal police violence against groups of protesters.

Letter from Brazil

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Henrique Sanchez reports on the growing strike wave and ecological movements in Brazil

The Brazilian economy is yet to be affected as deeply by the economic recession as much of the surrounding region. The fact that Brazil is set to host two major international events the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 reflects its relative containment of the crisis. However, both events have been used as a justification for privatisation and the launching of ecologically unsustainable projects in the name of "national interest".

Brazil: Fighting for the Right to be Black

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"We're not Racists: A Response to Those Who Want to Turn Us into a Bi-Coloured Nation." So reads the provocative title of a recent contribution to the debate on race relations in Brazil, by Ali Kamel, executive director of journalism for the Globo media network.

In the last few years an argument has been simmering in the Brazilian media and academic circles about the affirmative action policies being introduced into higher education and the state sectors.

Brazil: Contempt for Poor Leads to Rebellion

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May was a hot month in the Brazilian state of São Paulo. Four days of violence left up to 150 civilians, prison staff, police officers and suspects dead.

Over half of the state's 140 prisons were in revolt, with at least 200 hostages taken, and 80 buses and 17 bank branches burnt out. Some media sources in Brazil dubbed the events "our 9/11". Hysterical that may be, but the panic was certainly enough for the authorities to impose an unofficial curfew on São Paulo, paralysing the transport system, and shutting down schools and businesses.

Brazil: Left Join the Battle for 'Useful Vote'

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The corruption scandals that engulfed President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva and his Workers' Party (PT) government reached their height in 2005, and coincided with a crisis on the Brazilian left.

Thousands of militants in the trade unions and social movements, as well as elected officials who are from the left of the PT, abandoned the Workers' Party. The majority went on to join P-Sol, the Party of Socialism and Freedom. This year will see an election that offers many complex and difficult challenges for the left, and raises wider issues about the possibilities of regroupment.

Brazil: Placing the Poor Before the Palace

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Heloisa Helena was one of the Brazilian Workers Party‘s most popular figures when it won the presidential election 15 months ago, and used to be leader of its group in the senate. But last month she announced she was throwing herself into the attempt to build a new socialist party in opposition to the government.

This follows her expulsion from the party along with three parliamentary deputies. Her crime? Voting against a government law to cut public service pensions virtually identical to one the Workers Party fought against when in opposition.

Here are some extracts from an interview in the Jornal de Brasil, where she explained her decision:

Unholy Alliance

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Raúl Zibechi spoke to Brazilian socialist Luciana Genro about Lula‘s government.

Luciana Genro was elected to the Brazilian Congress as a representative of the PT - the Workers Party - the organisation to which Lula, the country‘s president, belongs. She, together with three other deputies and one senator, are currently under threat of expulsion for voting against Lula‘s new pension law.

How would you assess the Lula government?

Brazilian Wave

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Review of 'Reclaim The State', Hilary Wainwright, Verso £15 and 'Radicals in Power', Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Zed Books £14.95

The leaders of the anti-capitalist movement seem to have fallen in love with Brazil. For years it was impossible to find a single news item about the country from one month to the next. Now every debate about the future of the movement, and the kind of world we want to build, seems to refer to Porto Alegre. Partly that is because the first three World Social Forums were held there. More importantly, though, it is because Porto Alegre has operated for more than ten years a 'participatory budget'.

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