Police in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo have used tear gas to break up a protest against the football World Cup, hours before the opening match.

At least one person was arrested and five others were injured, three of them journalists.

Protesters had tried to block a road leading to the stadium where the opening ceremony will take place.

Further protests are planned in other Brazilian cities over the expense of hosting the tournament.


PRIVATELY OWNED PUBLIC SPACES IN BRAZIL:  Shopping Mall “Flash Mobs” or Rolezinhos

A novel social phenomenon recently began among adolescents in São Paulo and then spread to Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, and other cities. Mobilized by Facebook, YouTube, and other social media, ”flash mobs” or rolezinhos” in Brazilian slang, often comprised several thousand teenagers, gather at shopping malls for social interaction on designated days. Organizers argue that the teenagers have nothing to do during the long, hot summer school vacations — the malls are attractive as safe, air-conditioned places to have snacks, hang out, and cruise for romance.

Mall managers, store owners, and many shoppers regard the large adolescent crowds as unruly and disruptive. Mall security and even police forces sometimes evict the groups, raising issues of access and equity. Mall officials have begun to monitor the social media to ascertain when mobilizations are planned. In some cases, the malls have closed on the days of planned “invasions,” such at the posh JK-Iguatemí shopping mall in Brasília’s Lago Norte district on Saturday, January 25.

Efforts to restrain these “flash mobs” have been criticized by some political leaders and groups in Brazil. Recent upward social mobility of poor families into the lower middle class has encouraged the teenagers to pursue social interaction on par with the upper middle classes. The malls’ rejection is perceived as perpetrated by a white, rich elite (managers and affluent shoppers) against the mostly disadvantaged teenagers of color. 

Accusations of social and racial discrimination have included those of the Municipal Secretary for Racial Promotion in São Paulo, Netinho de Paula (PCdoB-SP), an Afro-Brazilian leader. Indeed, organizers of the rolezinhos have been linked to the UJS-Union of Young Socialists — part of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) — and other political parties.

Several mainstream parties have denied collaborating with the young organizers, and some youth leaders have rejected political affiliations. Organizer Vinicius Andrade recently met with the UJS, but later declared to the press: “I am not affiliated with any party or political entity. They were willing to help us in the disputes over rolezinhos, but I do not want to know about any political party. Our movement avoids partisan politics.”

Meanwhile, the controversies have gone to the courts. São Paulo Judge Romulo Russo recently approved the request of the shopping mall association ALSHOP and prohibited an upcoming rolezinho. Russo noted that it would be illegal to prohibit the right of people to come and go in the stores, but argued that the malls were unable to accommodate such large crowds and recommended that in São Paulo the events take place on “squares and public parks, the sambadrome, possibly in mall parking lots.”

Stay tuned for more updates on this controversy over the use of privately-owned public space in Brazil. For an interesting account in English, see the work of American journalist Vincent Bevins, who recently published an article on this phenomenon in the Los Angeles Times.

Groups of mostly dark-skinned and working-class youths in Sao Paulo began organizing last month on Facebook to meet and hang out at malls. Thousands showed up, singing and flirting in the halls. Mall operators reacted by banning further rolezinhos, Brazilian Portuguese slang for “taking a little stroll,” but sometimes translated as “flash mob.”


"As the popularity of rolezinhos grows each week, so is the alarm of authorities. Mall administrators have responded by obtaining judicial orders to fine anyone caught participating in a rolezinho 10,000 reales (roughly $4,200). They’ve also deployed guards to screen would-be mall goers. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, apparently concerned that the movement will spread, called for a high-level meeting on the subject this week, and on Thursday the mayor of São Paulo pleaded with local youths to move the events to public spaces or at least the mall parking lots, while at the same time announcing a series of meetings with shopping mall owners to avoid racist policies.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the seeming random nature of the rolezinhos, reaction to them has provided much fodder for analysis among São Paulo’s elite. Left-wing commentators were indignant when the gatherings were initially interpreted by the local media to be ‘arrastão,’ a term usually applied to large groups of people intent on rioting. Some headlines are using the term ‘apartheid' to refer to the shopping malls' attempts to keep these youths out.

'People are scared because it's a lot of youth together … and because they are black and live in the periphery,' says Barreido.”

Read: Rolezinhos: The Flash Mobs Currently Freaking Out Brazilian Authorities

ProSavana, an agricultural development programme by the governments of Mozambique, Brazil and Japan – which is still in the initial stage of implementation in the centre and north of Mozambique – is being challenged by the União Nacional dos Camponeses de Moçambique (UNAC - National Union of Small-scale Farmers of Mozambique), the largest organisation of its type in the country.

To be implemented over an area of millions of hectares across 19 districts of central and northern Mozambique, ProSavana aims to boost agribusiness through private sector participation in the production of crops for export.

UNAC argues that the Brazilian model for agricultural development of tropical savannah that will be replicated in the Mozambican project will cause the expropriation of land from millions of peasants, exacerbate poverty and lead to social unrest, as happened in Brazil, leading to the ‘sem-terra’ phenomenon.

Over the last year, the center of South America’s largest city has been markedly transformed, with nearly 50 abandoned buildings occupied by squatters from Brazil’s many sem-teto, or roofless, movements.

The occupation protests at the buildings, where red flags hang from windows, are meant to pressure the government to provide adequate housing and give working families a place to live.

In both rich and poor neighborhoods of Sao Paulo, a metropolis of 11 million, property values have more than doubled in the last four years, leading to increased housing costs for those least able to afford them. In the seedier parts of downtown, a tiny one-bedroom apartment overlooking scenes of drug use and prostitution costs $450 a month; meanwhile, the minimum wage is $310 a month.

Chico Buarque, Construção (translated from Portuguese)

Maked love at that time as if it was the last one
Kissed his woman as if she was the last one
And to every one of his children as if he was the unic
And crossed the street whith his shy step
Climbed to the costruction as if he was a machine
He built in the landing four solid walls
Brick with brick in a magic design
His eyes dull by the concrete and tears
He seated for to rest as if it was Saturday
Ate beans and rice as if he was a prince
Drank and laughed as if he was listening music
And stumbled in the sky as if he was a bird
And ended in the land as a flaccid package
He agonized in the middle of the public esplanade
He died at the wrong way confusing the traffic

Maked love that time as if he was the last one
He kissed his woman as if she was the single one
And to every one of his children as if he was the prodigal
And crossed the street whith his drunk step
Climbed to the costruction as if it was solid
He Built in the landing four magic walls
Brick with brick in a logical design
His eyes dull by the concrete and traffic
He seated for to rest as if he was a prince
Ate beans and rice as if it was the maximun
Drank and sobed as if he was a machine
Danced and laughed as if he was the next one
And stumbled in the sky as if he listened music
And floated in the air as if it was Saturday
And finished in the land as a shy package
He agonized in the middle of the shipwreck esplanade
He died at the wrong way confusing the public

Maked love that time as if he was a machine
He kissed his woman as if it was logic
He Built in the landing four flaccid walls
And ended in the land as a drunk package
He died at the wrong way confusing Saturday

For this bread to eat, for this soil for to sleep
The certainty for to be born and the license for to smile
For to let me to breath, for to let me to exist
Shall God pays you
For the free cachaza (alcohol) that we get to swallow
For the smoke and the misfortune that we have to cough
Fort the hanging scaffold from that we have to fall
Shall God pays you
For the moaning woman that to praises us and spits us
And for the flies, insects for to kiss us and for to cover us
And for the final peace that will redeems us at the end
Shall God pays you

In the past decade, as Brazil has expanded into the world’s sixth-largest economy, nearly 30 million Brazilians have been lifted out of poverty into the middle class, and can now afford to buy cars, finance houses, travel abroad, and send their children to college. But the country suffers from inadequate infrastructure, failing schools and hospitals, a regressive tax system, and a corrupt and bureaucratic government. Although the public transportation system is expensive, its quality is poor: most Brazilian cities have too few bus lines, and the ones they do have are underserviced and overcrowded. At the protests, posters read, “It’s not just the 20 centavos.” The grievance underlying these signs is not the fare increase but the government’s broken promise to provide public services to its citizens.

In the song “Construção,” or “Construction,” Chico Buarque’s masterpiece written in 1971, a construction worker falls from a new building and dies in the middle of the street. The song describes the absence of solidarity that characterized life under the Brazilian dictatorship; the worker’s death is noticed only because it blocks traffic and delays the weekend routines of people passing by. If the openly repressive state that “Construção” condemns no longer exists, the uneven distribution of the benefits of Brazil’s new growth means that some people still suffer disproportionately, even as the country’s center-left ruling party governs in the name of the working class. What tens of thousands of protestors are now asking is: If Brazil is rich, why do we still live poorly?