Monday, June 24, 2013

Jô Soares’s Twenty Cents

The day after the current wave of protests began, an official in President Dilma Rousseff’s cabinet, Minister Gilberto Carvalho gave an interview in which he exclaimed that he didn’t understand why these protests were taking place. Jô Soares, a noted comedian, author and talk show host, as well as a renowned intellectual, made a point of explaining cent by cent why people are outraged.

Jô offered this explanation, as he stated, “For those who haven’t understood yet: the twenty cents, one by one.

 1¢ – Corruption.
 2¢ – Impunity.
 3¢ – Urban violence.
 4¢ – The threat of inflation returning.
 5¢ – The amount of taxes we pay, seeing nothing in return.
 6¢ – The low salary of public school teachers and public service doctors.
 7¢ – Politicians’ high salaries.
 8¢ – Lack of opposition to the government.
 9¢ – The absolute shamelessness of those governing us.
10¢ – Our schools and the poor quality of education.
11¢ – Our hospitals and the lack of a dignified health system.
12¢ – Our highways and inefficient public transportation.
13¢ – The practice of trading votes for public positions in the centers of power, causing distortions in the way things work.
14¢ – Those with little education trading their votes for small improvements in public services (paid for with public monies) that always put the same people in power.
15¢ – Politicians who have been convicted of crimes and are still in office.
16¢ – Those involved in the Mensalão corruption scandal, who, having been tried and convicted, are still free..
17¢ – Political parties that look like organized crime.
18¢ – The price of stadiums for the World Cup, overpricing and poor quality of public works.
19¢ – A tendentious and sold out media.
20¢ – The perception that we are not represented by those in government.

And, if you need it, I have another twenty cents here. All you have to do is ask.”

For those non-Brazilians who might not quite understand what Jô was talking about or be able to put this in context, let me add to these, penny by penny:

 1¢ – Corruption syphons off at least US$25 billion dollars in public monies every year.
 2¢ – The wealthy and powerful rarely, if ever, go to jail for crimes they commit. Only 10% percent of murders are prosecuted, for openers.
 3¢ – High crime rates, in part resulting from extreme disparities in wealth and, in part, from a failed judicial system.
 4¢ – Brazil suffered from hyperinflation from 1980 until 1994. During the time I lived in São Paulo (1989-1994), inflation averaged 40% a month and the national currency was changed five or six times.
 5¢ – See 1¢ - corruption, 6¢ - teachers and doctors salaries, 10¢ – Hell, everything on this list qualifies for this one.
 6¢ – The base salary for teachers in Minas Gerais, where I live, is about US$530 a month and the average salary for doctors in the public sector is about US$870.
 7¢ – The salary of a federal congressman is about US$12,000 / month, not counting fringe benefits – and they are not the highest paid politicians. The legal minimum salary in is US$303 / month. 72% of the population earns US$606 or less per month (two minimum salaries or less.) Need I say any more?
 8¢ – There is no real opposition to the status quo in the government. Politicians are universally seen as corrupt and unwilling to cut their own privileges.
 9¢ – All you have to do to see this is look at how much politicians pay themselves and how much they steal – and that is just for starters. You can add nepotism and a few other things to the list as well.
10¢ – See 6¢ for salaries. Students in public schools receive such poor instruction that very few gain entry into state and federal universities, which are the most prestigious in the country and are free of charge. Most of the slots in those universities are filled by students whose parents could afford to send them to excellent – and expensive – private schools. Shouldn’t graduates of public schools naturally be those eligible for admission to free public universities?
11¢ – At least 72% of the countries population cannot afford health insurance and, therefore, rely on the national public health system. Hospitals are poorly equipped, understaffed and falling apart to the point that the ill have been known to die while waiting to be attended through no fault of the medical staff on duty. There are just too many patients for them to attend to. Rural areas are also  grossly undeserved.
12¢ – Highways are poorly constructed and maintained, and public transportation is inadequate to serve the needs of the population relies on it – the vast majority of Brazilians. Prices, for those receiving the lowest pay – again, the majority of the population – are already too high for them. Remember, the catalyst for the current wave of protests sweeping this country was a 20¢ increase in the bus fare in São Paulo.
13¢ – This speaks for itself.
14¢ – This also speaks for itself.
15¢ – See 2¢.
16¢ – See 2¢.
17¢ – See 1¢ and 9¢.
18¢ – The current estimated price for the 2014 World Cup is equal to the total price of the last three World Cups combined – and we are seeing that a lot of the work being done is shoddy. Can anyone say “corruption”?
19¢ – All you have to do to see this is follow, among others, Rede Gobo’s poor coverage of current events. The vast majority of the ongoing protests have been peaceful, but that is not what is being reported both here and abroad. (In this aspect, social media is being extremely useful in getting accurate information out.)
20¢ – This is not a perception. It is reality.

And that, my friends, hopefully will help you understand why we are in the streets.

Jô Soares

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