Brazilian protests won’t disrupt WYD, organizers say

With World Youth Day 2013 scheduled to kick off in Rio de Janeiro at the end of July, the recent wave of protests sweeping major Brazilian cities—some of which have turned violent—have prompted the event’s organizers to issue reassuring statements.

First, some details on the protests:

Anger about a hike in public transport fares has spiralled into a wider movement demanding an end to government corruption — one fueled by resentment over the $15 billion cost of staging the Confederations Cup and the World Cup. …

Protesters say they want higher funding for education and health and a cut in salaries of public officials. They are also railing against what they viewed as rampant corruption within the political class.

The demonstrations in the country of 194 million people — the world’s seventh largest economy — have sometimes turned violent.

Late Wednesday, riot police fired tear gas to break up a mob of several hundred that tried to block a 15-kilometer (10-mile) bridge across Guanabara Bay that links Rio with the nearby city of Niteroi.

The mob, which had earlier ransacked a bank branch, knocked over a bus, and then built barricades with debris and set them on fire. …

More than 250,000 people marched in several cities on Monday — a huge turnout that came as a surprise in a country rarely inclined to protest, particularly after a decade of social progress in terms of income and jobs.

As Vatican Insider reports, Archbishop Orani Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro used a message to Vatican Radio to reassure those looking ahead to World Youth Day, to be held in his city July 23-28:

The archbishop stressed that the atmosphere of tension that has spread through the streets of many Brazilian cities, including Rio, has nothing to do with the event.

“These protests are taking place in specific areas of the city, with police present,” he said.

Archbishop Tempesta said he contacted Brazilian authorities to find out whether the safety of the Pope and the approximately 2 million pilgrims expected to attend the event would be under threat. But he admitted that his primary concern was to do with the violence committed by some minorities.

“These infiltrators end up unleashing their violence against the police and public property, causing alarm among the people,” the archbishop said.

The English-language coordinator for WYD has also said no disruptions from the protests are expected. Father Michael Rogers, SJ told Vatican Radio:

“Nobody anticipates that there will be any problems going forward,” explaining, “this is a moment of great joy, not just for the Church in Brazil, but for the Church in Latin America,” which is welcoming back the first Pope elected from her shores. Fr. Rogers also reminds people to take the normal precautions when travelling. “Not to say that people shouldn’t be attentive to the normal things that [one] is attentive to when [one] is travelling anywhere else in the world,” he says, “people should be raring to go – it’ll be a great event.”

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About Catherine Harmon 577 Articles
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.