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Students protest across Brazil over Jair Bolsonaro’s sweeping cuts to education

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From Amazon cities to small towns in the deep south, demonstrators turned out to condemn funding cuts

Tens of thousands of students, academics and teachers have taken to the streets of Brazil for their latest mass protest against what they call far-right president Jair Bolsonaros assault on education.

Up and down the country from Amazon cities to small towns in Brazils deep south demonstrators turned out to condemn Bolsonaros highly controversial moves to slash funding for public education and science.

In the capital, Braslia, student protesters were filmed burning an effigy of the Brazilian president while chanting the increasingly common refrain of his opponents: Hey, Bolsonaro go and get fucked.

In the northeastern city of Salvador, where a reported 70,000 people marched, one dissenter carried a diabolic caricature of Bolsonaro stamped with the phrase: Not today Satan.

Thousands of students marched through downtown Rio with placards reading: Education isnt an expense, it is an investment.

This isnt just an attack on universities. It is going to affect all levels of education, said Rodrigo Iacovini, an urban planner who joined a march in Brazils economic capital, So Paulo.

We knew it would be bad but not this bad, Iacovini, 33, said of Bolsonaros six-month-old administration. Unfortunately, they have shown themselves to be not just a conservative government, but a completely incompetent conservative government that is utterly detached from the Brazilian reality.

Tanisia Maria Almeida, a masters student who demonstrated in the northeastern state of Sergipe, said she was horrified by spending cuts she feared would make it harder for students from poor backgrounds to gain an education.

Thanks to education programs created by the leftist governments of Luiz Incio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff University For All and Science without Borders Almeida said she had secured a degree in bio-medicine and study in the United States.

It makes me so sad that if these cuts happen people who like me also arent from wealthy families, wont have the same opportunities I had. This really, really upsets me. I see young people who want to grow but who will be prevented from doing so by these cuts or they will have to leave the country.

Bolsonaro swept to a landslide election victory last October, capitalising on widespread anger at the left-wing politicians who presided over Brazils worst ever recession and greatest ever corruption scandal.

But six months into the radical populists four-year term, opposition is growing with polls showing that about 36% of voters now consider his administration bad or awful, compared to 17% in February.

Moves to dramatically reduce funding for federal universities unveiled last month by education minister, Abraham Weintraub have caused particular outrage, prompting what observers call the largest protests against a newly installed Brazilian president in decades.

On 15 May tens of thousands of demonstrators staged nationwide protests against the cuts only to be belittled by Bolsonaro as useful idiots and imbeciles.

Brazils firebrand leader attempted to row back from those characteristically incendiary remarks this week in an interview with Record, a sympathetic Brazilian broadcaster that has emerged as his answer to Trumps Fox News.

Bolsonaro admitted he had gone too far but again disparaged the protesting students as naive kids who were being manipulated by their teachers and didnt even know what they were doing.

Bolsonaros critics credit such comments, and the presidents broader offensive against public education, with helping to unify his opponents.

Todays demonstrations are part of a growing process of social mobilizations against the Bolsonaro government, said Juliano Medeiros, the president of Brazils leftist Socialism and Liberty party (PSOL).

Our main message is that Bolsonaro cannot govern with his back turned to Brazilian society.

Iacovini, who studied at two of Brazils top federal universities, said that while education cuts had left him feeling profoundly demoralized his spirits had been lifted by the scale of recent anti-Bolsonaro protests.

It gives me hope that it is possible to resist this governments regressions Brazilian people are starting to see that the threat this administration poses is a threat to all of us, not just to others.

Almeida said she was battling not just the government, but her Bolsonarista relatives too.

A large part of my family voted for Bolsonaro and they defend what he is doing, she said. I just cannot understand how a country that wants to develop starts by cutting something as basic as education.

Almeida rejected attempts to characterise the protests as a purely left-wing initiative.

Lots of people think this is just a pro-Workers party (PT) protest. This isnt true. Lots [of the protesters] are. But it is much more against what they are doing than in favour of the PT.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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