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A Note from Movimento Passe Livre, on Fare Hikes, Finance, and Rights

Protesters gathering on Monday the 17th of June, at Largo da Batata in the city of São Paulo

Background

In June fare hikes raising public transit tariffs R$0.20 took place in the city of São Paulo setting off protests by the group "Movimento Passe Livre" (MPL—Free Pass Movement) which advocates for transit reductions, specifically tax-funded public transit.

After brutal repression by the Military Police (Brazilian cities are policed by two forces, the civil police—run by the city, and military police—a vestige of a brutal dictatorship, which answers to the state), further demonstrations were called each with increasing numbers. On Friday June 14th, massive demonstrations were held, primarily in São Paulo and Rio, again facing disproportionate police response, and media repression.

On the 17th of June that had hundreds of thousands of protestors of all ilks taking to the streets (150,000 in São Paulo, 100,000 in Rio, and more Brazilia, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Belém, Salvador among the others), governments kept the shock troops away, and the mass protests came off with little incident. Tuesday came around, and people took to the streets again, and then again on Wednesday.

On June 19th, the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro revoked the fare hike that went into place this June, following two weeks of sustained protests throughout the country.

The "Free Fare Moviment"—Movimento Passe Livre (MPL)—published this open letter after two days of mass protests across Brazilian cities, before the revocation was announced. (Translated by ).

The reasons for mass demonstrations have broadened along with adherents, but MPL’s fare reduction movement has remained central. Now the movement seeks to make sure public transit is financed in the right way.

Here’s their note from earlier today, translated into English by la Gringa Sudaica:

Yesterday [Tuesday, June 18th], hundreds of thousands of people took over downtown, Paulista Ave., Raposo Tavares Highway, Socorro Bridge, Cidade Dutra, and the Ruby and Emerald train lines (CPTM). Today was the day for M’Boi Mirim, Regis Bittencourt and Anchieta. The demand is clear: immediate revocation of the fare hike! Meanwhile, Mayor Haddad and Governor Alckmin remain intransigent, taking irresponsible attitude of not attending to popular pleas. That’s the reason for the popular revolt that we’ve seen spread throughout the city. The São Paulo public sector has adopted two clear positions in relation to the mass protests for the revocation of the fare hike in the city. The state government keeps quiet and disappears from public debate, refusing to dialogue and creating the idea that it’s a simple question of public security, always putting the Military Police at the helm of every situation. Governor Geraldo Alckmin makes it clear that he prefers to send the police to deal with a demand from the population. This proves that São Paulo doesn’t deal well with demonstrations, as the mayor affirmed today. Would it be the people who aren’t ready for “democratic life”?

Now, the city tries in every way to allude the people in the streets, creating the false idea that, to revoke the hike, the city would have to take money out of education, health, and other social areas. This isn’t true, especially because funds for sectors like education and health are tied and can’t be transferred.

The mayor said that he couldn’t abandon the projects he laid out in the electoral campaign to cede to pressure from the street, which would cause a “contradiction between street and ballot box”. There is no contradiction: 77% of the population (according to Datafolha [a major polling agency]) favors the protests for revoking the hike, a higher percentage that the mayor’s electoral one.

The city itself revealed that the area’s entrepreneurs only pay 10% of the cost of the buses while the riders pay 70% of that cost! How about evening that budget out a little more? Perhaps mayor Haddad prefers to ensure high winnings for the businessmen and punish users of public transport by maintain that cost? Aside from that, the city government could be more courageous and collect the late IPTU [tax] from shopping malls, large properties and companies that still owe the city millions!

We reiterate that this decision continues being political, such that, in election seasons, governors reorganize the available resources to keep form having raise fares and lose elections. Porto Alegre, Vitório, Goiânia, Florianópolis, among others, have already reduced their fares, according to the public’s will. Ask the residents of those cities if that was in detriment to other public services!  

Although it’s not the MPL’s obligation to explain to the public sector how the State and Municipal budgets should be organized, it was more than necessary to divulge this information to reiterate that it IS possible to revoke the social injustice that is the increase in bus, train and subway passes.

We have to stop the inversion in the government’s discourse, which says that the demonstrations infringe on the public’s right to come and go. It’s the people demonstrating who are in fact fighting to guarantee that right, marginalized by the fare and its hikes.

We will not leave the streets!

Free Fare Movement, São Paulo. Movimento Passe Livre São Paulo

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