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In Brazil, anti-graft sentiment fuels a mass movement

São Paulo, Brazil, June, 20, 2013: Demonstrators protesting on Paulista Avenue in São Paulo for civil rights and improvements in public services. The demonstrations began in São Paulo in early June 2013 and have spread rapidly across the country demanding political reform after successive cases of corruption. (Photo by iStock)Brazilians took to the streets this weekend to protest corruption, with huge rallies swelling across the country even after the president promised dialog and reform.

‘The protests have become the largest public demonstrations Latin America’s biggest nation has seen in two decades,’ the Associated Press said. ‘They began as opposition to transportation fare hikes, then became a laundry list of causes including anger at high taxes, poor services and World Cup spending, before coalescing around the issue of rampant government corruption.’

Why is the focus on corruption? And why now?

Most people are honest and want the same things out of life — a safe place to live, a fair wage for their labor, decent schools and medical care for the kids, reasonable taxes in exchange for basic government services, and so on.

But corruption puts all that at risk. It rigs the system against the majority who believe in the simple virtues. It rewards the cheaters and turns integrity into a handicap. No wonder those governed not by the rule of law but by graft lose heart and eventually lose hope.

Today in Brazil, more than 75 percent of the citizens support the anti-graft demonstrations, the AP said. They’re tired of a rigged system.

President Dilma Rousseff is ‘underestimating the resolve of the people on the corruption issue,’ a medical student marching in Sao Paulo told the AP. ‘She talked and talked and said nothing. Nobody can take the corruption of this country anymore.’

The president said she’s against corruption and supports the protesters. She wants a dialog about transportation costs, she said, and using oil royalties for education.

Will those concessions placate the majority of Brazilians? It depends whether the changes are big enough to give them back their hope in a better future.

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