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Brazil Protests Mark Evolution of Digital-Age Democracy

Released: 6/21/2013 10:00 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Cornell University
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Two Cornell University experts are available for comment on the widespread, spontaneous protests that began in Brazil over an increase in bus fares: Kenneth Roberts, an expert in Latin American politics and professor of government; and Murillo Campello, an expert in financial economics, professor of management and Brazilian native.

Murillo Campello:
“This has been the case of a ‘snowball effect’ of unthinkable proportions, by Brazilian standards, at least. One finds different segments of society angry about a myriad of issues, marching together, not knowing exactly why. There are no specific, large causes bringing people together on the streets of Rio, Sao Paulo, Brasilia and a dozen of other cities. There is no leadership to speak of. The manifestations are spontaneous, organized overnight via the web, and they are noisy, albeit peaceable.

“Perhaps the lesson for us all is that in the new digital society, the act of voting as an instrument for political change is becoming obsolete. Young Brazilians may be showing that ‘voting’ can take place every day on the streets of major cities. The democratic process in the digital age may be much too dynamic to wait for years until the next election cycle.”

Kenneth Roberts:
“The recent outbreak of social protests in Brazil has taken many people by surprise, since the country is widely recognized to be a ‘success case’ and a rising power within the Latin American region.

“In recent years the country has taken great strides to stabilize democracy and address social needs while maintaining steady economic growth. Although the ruling social democratic party has expanded social programs to benefit underprivileged sectors of Brazilian society, the protests clearly indicate that progress has been too slow for some people, and many are demanding a broader range of public services and greater efficiency in their delivery. Although the government of Dilma Rousseff appears quite stable, it will clearly be challenged to find new ways of responding to societal demands and pressures.”

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