Brazilians in Sarasota protest government corruption in their home country

07/02/13 Janelle Irwin
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Protests over government corruption and poor social services in Brazil have slowed down, but a group of native Brazilians in Sarasota is just getting started. Nearly 50 people protested systemic problems in the South American nation at the famous kissing statue on Sarasota’s waterfront Monday night despite unrelenting rain.

“We want less money for soccer stadiums and airports for the World Cup and more money for what people need which is health, education, housing, a lot of things that are in bad need in Brazil.”

That’s Mica Martinelli, one of the protest organizers. More than 80 people were expected, but as the day grew soggier by the minute, Martinelli was happy with the turnout. The group huddled under a sea of umbrellas wearing green and yellow, the colors of their native country’s flag. Martinelli said they stand in solidarity with Brazilians who are struggling to find adequate schools for their children or even basic healthcare.

“It’s everything – the hospitals, there are people lying on the floors, people don’t get to the doctors before they die and there’s no schools for everybody, there’s not justice, there’s a whole lot of violence and the violence happens every time you have such big income gap which is the case in Brazil. Brazil now is controlled by this small, elite that is very, very corrupt and the government denies everything to the people and just sides with the corporations.”

The protests were sparked in early June as the Brazilian government was spending millions to host the 2014 World Cup. The South American nation will also host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Martinelli and her fiancé, Bruce Glasberg, traveled to Brazil this year to tend to a rental property. When they arrived, they found the home was being burglarized by armed robbers.

“When I was in Brazil, I didn’t see one police officer. There is very little security in the country and the police that came afterwards didn’t even really – they were just really casual. I mean, crime is rampant.”

Martinelli interjected with a clarification about police presence in the continent-sized country.

“And it’s true, but see, with the demonstrators they are all there and throwing gas against the demonstrators and rubber bullets that still hurt. So, to repress they are there, but not to protect.”

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has seen a drastic decline in her popularity since protests began last month. Glasberg said it was the perfect time for the Brazilian people to raise their voices.

“Because of the Olympics and the World Cup, they’re in the spotlight so the government has to react because the world is looking at Brazil.”

Another native Brazilian, Cesar Braga, is standing in solidarity with people in his country, including his mother and sister who still live there.

“We had a like, a medium level. The financial situation is good for them, but there is no safety. We cannot walk in the streets after 6 o’clock in the afternoon. For example, my mom live in a place [that is] very popular called Copacabana Beach, but after 6 o’clock at night you need to be very careful where you go. If you go to the bank [to get some money] you need to be a good athlete or know how to run or be very aware because the robbing level is out of control.”

Though protests have coincided with preparations for the 2014 World Cup, Brazilians aren’t necessarily opposed to the national stage it will create. But Braga said it highlights the disparity between the rich and poor.

“Every country, like the United States, [spends] around $10 million to realize the games. Brazil is right now, close to $28 million and it’s not even ready; just to understand the size of the corruption.”

The protesters ranged in age from young to old. One of the youngest waving a sign in the rain was 7-year-old Christian Pangallo. He was born in the U.S., but his parents are Brazilian immigrants.

“People in Brazil, they’ve been stealing money for Brazil and little kids have died because they didn’t have enough money to buy food or go to the doctor.”

“Why is this important to you?"

“Because some of the kids there might be my friends.”

International soccer’s governing body, FIFA, has said World Cup matches will be stopped in Brazil if tear gas fired by police to disperse protesters affects players. The announcement came after some Brazilian players were allegedly affected by tear gas wafting into the stadium due to clashes between protesters and police during the Confederations Cup.

Sarasota Brazilians on Facebook

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