Sunday, June 16, 2013

[Protests in São Paulo] Why We are in the Streets

June 15th, 2013

The model of public transportation based on allowing its exploitation by private companies and the charging of fares is a broken model. It will continue to be in crisis for as long as urban mobility continues to follow the logic of commodities, as opposed to the idea of urban mobility as a fundamental right for everyone.

This logic, namely profit, leads companies to raise the fares repeatedly with support from the government. This raise eventually leads more public transportation passengers to stop using it, and with less passengers, the companies feel the need to raise the fares again.

That is an act of violence against a large part of the population, who, as shown in the article published by UOL yesterday, has to choose between eating, or paying for public transportation fares. An estimated 37 million Brazilians have been excluded from the public transportation system because they cannot afford it. This number, not an updated figure, does not come out of nowhere: from 20 cent to 20 cent raise, transportation has become, according to IBGE (Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics), the third largest expense for the Brazilian family, taking the right to mobility from the population.

In this sense, a population which requires transportation to go to work, but must pay that bill almost by itself, with no contribution from the sectors that truly benefit from their use of public transportation. That is why we believe in a free fare, which means nothing more than to indirectly fund this system, dividing the bill by everyone, as everyone benefits from it.

This is the context which brought the Free Fare Movement across multiple cities in Brazil. This is why for years we have been fighting for improvements and for a paradigm shift in public transportation. Right now, as we are demonstrating for the repeal of the bus fare raise in São Paulo, thousands also manifest in Rio de Janeiro, and in Goiânia, where the fight was won, much like the demonstrators in Porto Alegre won a couple months ago.

The violent impact on the common citizen’s pockets drove the demonstrations to grow bigger than the movement itself. And the violent actions of the Military Police, driving protesters over the edge, has lead the demonstrations to become a popular uprising.

Mayor Fernando Haddad, speaking from Paris alongside the governor Geraldo Alckmin, demands from the movement to take a responsibility that is not ours. We are not the ones who sign the contracts and who determine the costs of public transportation to be passed on to the poor. We are not the ones who say the raise is below inflation rates without taking into account that, from 1994 until now, with the inflation accumulated at 332%, the bus fare should be R$ 2,16 and R$ 2,59 for the subway.

Besides, we ask: do the salaries of most of the population follow the inflation rates?

This discrepancy between the cost of this system and how much, when and how one is charged for the use it, shows that the decisions are in the political realm as opposed to the technical one. It’s a matter of choice: if our society decides that yes, public transportation is a right and should be available for all of us, with no distinctions or fares, it will find a way to do so. That has been done, partially, with health and education. But without public transportation, the citizens see their rights to those fundamental areas restricted. Would it be right to ask a student to pay a fee to go to school? Or to receive care at a health clinic?

Haddad cannot run away from his responsibility and hide behind the monthly pass, a proposal that will only benefit a small amount of passengers and will raise the subsidy by more 50%, money that could be used to reduce the fares.

The immediate popular demand is the repeal of the fare raise, and only in those terms can any dialogue be established. The population has conquered the repeal of the raise in Natal, Porto Alegre and Goiânia. São Paulo has yet to join in.

By Nina Capello, Erica de Oliveira, Daniel Guimarães and Rafael Siqueira. Activists from MPL (Free Fare Movement)

Translated by Jéssica Preuss and Yuri Gama


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