Exhausted Brazil

RIO DE JANIERO – The demonstrations that are shaking Brazil’s normally laid-back society are channeling a widespread sentiment: enough is enough! But, with the exception of professional agitators, there is no hatred in the street protests. Instead, there is a kind of impatient fatigue.

Brazilians are tired of being brutalized by public transport in the country’s metropolitan areas; tired of ghastly hospitals; tired of corruption scandals; and tired, especially, of inflation, which has returned like a dreaded disease, once again eroding people’s purchasing power and threatening to return millions to the poverty from which they only recently escaped.

It is difficult to disagree with the protesters. Nevertheless, there are many economic reasons to worry about the effect of the demonstrations.

Since the Plano Real was put in place in 1994, which brought inflation down to manageable levels, Brazil has achieved remarkable economic and social progress. Presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, both serving eight years in office, managed to ensure rapid economic growth while maintaining price stability and a sound fiscal position. Their success lifted a significant share of poor Brazilians into the middle class and made Brazil an attractive destination for foreign investors.