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Protests Allow Brazilians To Feel Part Of Global Movement


Technology really does seem to make the world smaller, and this morning, we'll hear this morning how that applies to protest movements. Turkey saw a fresh wave of anti-government demonstrations over the weekend.


And in Brazil, the president is holding an emergency meeting today on how to respond to protests sweeping that country. An estimated quarter of a million Brazilians were on the streets yesterday, with a wide range of grievances.

GREENE: As NPR's South America correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports, Brazilian protestors feel they're part of a growing global movement.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: This started as a small protest against a hike in bus and subway fares. And now it's blossomed into this...


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Hundreds of thousands of people have come out onto the streets here to demonstrate against a range of complaints - corruption, lack of services, the cost of World Cup stadiums. And many people are asking why now?

One of the answers may be protests contagion. Demonstrators in one part of the world are looking at and are being inspired by movements a world away.

MATTEUS MARTINS: There is a connection. There is a solidarity between the protests, definitely. The people all over the world, they're learning from each other, they're gaining strength together, we see different protests around the world supporting the ones in Sao Paulo, the ones in Turkey.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Matteus Martins, who has been coming out to the streets in Sao Paulo. He's 18 years old, educated, connected. In fact, he fits the profile, not just of a protestor in Brazil, but also a protestor in Turkey, or for that matter, Bulgaria too. And that's no coincidence, he says.

MARTINS: Most of that is because of the globalization that comes with the Internet - this new age that we can share everything through social networks and videos online. That's great.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And since the protests erupted here in Brazil, those connections have only become tighter. If you go on social media these days, you'll see loads of tweets and posts between Turks and Brazilians, expressing solidarity, sympathy and exchanging tips.

Nineteen-year-old Luiza Mandetta is part of the Passe Livre or Free Fare Movement. They were the ones who originally took to the streets and initially played an organizing role in these protests.

LUIZA MANDETTA: There are lots of people in the world that are not OK with what is happening with their lives and the way that it has come from politicians to just ignore what we want and do whatever they are interested in, they do not defend our interests, they defend their own.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Of course, every country has its own unique set of circumstances that feeds into a protest movement. But both in Turkey and Brazil, the galvanizing moment came when police cracked down on the initial demonstrations. The images were played out over social media, and then people came out in huge numbers, and crucially, the protestors had already seen what mass demonstrations could do in other places.

Cornelius Fleischhaker is a researcher with the International Monetary Fund who blogs about Latin America. He's lived in both Turkey and Brazil and says both are strong emerging economies.

CORNELIUS FLEISCHHAKER: Economically, I think there is a similar dynamic going on - that you have a fairly young population that's much more educated than it was in previous generations - that's much more active, that has social media as a tool to communicate and then mobilize.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And he says that very prosperity has played a hand in fueling the current unrest.

FLEISCHHAKER: Once a large part of the population reaches kind of the middle class status, they demand more, and if the government is not willing or able to provide, that's when people go on the streets.

MARTINS: Of course, one of the things that have been markedly different is how Turkey's and Brazil's governments have reacted to the crisis. Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff is a former leftist activist who was tortured under Brazil's dictatorship.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In her most recent address, she said she had sympathy with the protesters and adopted a conciliatory tone. Turkey's leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has taken a markedly different approach, demonizing the demonstrators and the social media they use.

In a speech this weekend, he also tried to link the movements in both Brazil and Turkey, implying that there is global conspiracy trying to destabilize both countries. It's the same game, the same trap, the same aim, he told supporters.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro NPR News, Sao Paulo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro
Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.