Why did large scale demonstrations, expected on Brazil’s independence day on September 7, fail to materialize? São Paulo saw small-scale and low key protests but the spark never seemed to light while Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia witnessed low volume, more aggressive protests.
It’s not as if previous demonstrations have goaded the government into substantive change. Rather, headlines have been dominated by fresh corruption scandals, in particular that of federal deputy Natan Donadon, convicted for syphoning off R$8.4 million. Congress failed to strip him of his mandate after an impassioned, if hardly credible, plea of innocence and Brazil is now witnessing an unseemly spat between lawmakers and politicians.
So, what put out the light? Partly, the middle classes stayed away, scared by possible violence and the shadowy Black Bloc. There is a cat and mouse game of radicalization. Protestors have resorted to stones and charges with police more liberally using tear gas and arrests. It is just unclear which side is driving the increasing violence in protests.
It is clearly a highly satisfactory outcome for Dilma Rousseff, who can dismiss the demonstrations as the work of unrepresentative and dangerous elements. Her popularity is already creeping up from lows polled in June. Is Brazil relapsing into passivity or merely drawing breath?