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Nobody Knows What is Happening

06/18/2013 - 08h20

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ELIANE CANTANHÊDE

All that President Dilma Rousseff managed to say (through a spokesperson), on an absolutely spectacular day like yesterday, was that youth protests are legitimate. Ok, they are, yes.

But so what? And the demonstrations that are not only by the young are not totally peaceful?

The declaration of the President does not match the tension, the size of the episodes, the striking images that the country watched at the same time, early evening, on TV and the Internet: according to Datafolha 65,000 people occupied São Paulo, Congress was surrounded, the center of Rio de Janeiro was totally taken over by protesters.. Protests popped up here and there in the state capitals.

It corresponded even less to what happened later in Rio, where the situation went out of control and some of the protesters burned a car and caused new scenes of vandalism.

More than clarifying or explaining anything, this succinct version of "legitimacy" was a clear recognition of Rousseff's perplexity facing the situation that took over the country. But, truth be told, this perplexity is not unique to the President.

Miguel Schincariol/AFP
Students take part in a protest in Sao Paulo against a recent rise in public transport
Students take part in a protest in Sao Paulo against a recent rise in public transport

If there is a consensual recognition that the increase of the fares was a simple detonator, no authority in any instance has learned so far enough to venture an assessment of what is happening in the country and point out what - and who - is behind it.

It all seemed so wonderful in the Brazil oasis, and suddenly we are reliving the demonstrations of Tahrir Square in Cairo, so suddenly, without warning, without a crescendo. We were all caught by surprise. From paradise, we have slipped at least into limbo. What is happening in Brazil?

For now, the only answer is that there is a dissatisfaction and diffuse irritation and even then not properly perceived. But the only certainty is that the strength and incredible ability to mobilize social networks that are revolutionizing the Arab world are being repeated here. There, to overthrow authoritarian regimes. And here, where the authoritarian regime was already long gone?

It is not the time for answers, but of doubts, of questions. Rousseff simply does not have anything to say. Actually, no one has. The word is with the protesters, but they are so many and so different that they might not yet have answers. Something is happening. What, no one knows exactly.

Translated by DAVE WOLIN

Read the article in the original language