In June 2013, massive popular protests took place in Brazil, right after Turkey’s Gezi Park protests. Although the crisis hadn’t yet hit the country hard, these first demonstrations complained about rising bus fares. They were brutally repressed by police. The violence of the event surprised everyone and was the spark which quickly set cities alight all over the country. In Rio alone, the main demonstration saw a million people on the streets. From there on, the police’s approach became increasingly aggressive and provocative, triggering more serious conflict. The police had to be prepared for the upcoming games. Tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray were added to the urban repertoire. The new uniform, armour that resembles musculature, made the police agents look like comic-book superheroes. They were immediately christened ‘Robocops’. As a result of such tactics, the later demonstrations of this period were reduced to skirmishes between black blocs and police.

The streets didn’t have a clear or unifying agenda, but one of the reasons for the protests can be ascribed to the fact that the cities were unable to compass the growth of the economy with proper infrastructure and improvements. Urban life became harder. Many informal organisations and social movements already advocated the right to the city, rights for minorities, public space occupation, alternative forms of organisation and production, and so on.

If, during the protests, the majority of people also complained about government corruption, some of them associated it with morality, giving birth to new right-wing and conservative associations inspired by more progressive models. They were dedicated to bringing an end to the years of Lula and Dilma under the argument of corruption, but their discourses also carried calls against social policies and minority rights.

At the start of 2014, a major corruption investigation called Car Wash was launched, exposing many politicians inside and outside government. Ministers, senators and business people were to be arrested, including the CEO of Odebrecht, the largest construction company in the country.

An alliance between the opposition, corrupt congress members, the conservative elite and the biggest media group decided that it was time to take out the elected government. The fight against corruption was a good excuse for an impeachment, and information was deliberately manipulated. Massive campaigns were launched against the government. The country was split.

Whether you call it a coup or not, during the impeachment process the country is being temporarily ruled by the Vice President, Michel Temer, who turned against Dilma. He is himself implicated in the Car Wash investigations, as are many members of his exclusively white and male cabinet. Tape recordings released last week revealed conspiratorial discussions among his hardcore followers – including the President of the Senate – who argued that taking Dilma out was the only way to stop the corruption investigations. This week the country General Attorney requested their arrest.

The political system is customised for corruption. If this does not change, we will not move forward and will remain the hostages of decisions driven by dark negotiations.

Only three days before the Olympics, the senate will decide whether the impeachment goes ahead or not. Who controls the country? Who will open the games?

In the face of the total mess the country is now in, we might find inspiration Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities (1972). In it, Marco Polo says:

“The hell of living people is not something to come; if there is one, it is here already, it’s the hell we live in every day, which we form staying together. There are two ways not to suffer from it. The first comes easy to many: to accept hell and become part of it, to the point you don’t see it anymore. The second is risky and requires continuous attention and learning: to look for and recognise who and what, in the middle of hell, is not hell, and to make it last, and give it space.” This is what I try to do.

Farzin Lotfi-Jam, Mark Wasiuta
Farzin Lotfi-Jam, Mark Wasiuta, Sharif Anous
Joost Grootens

This project is part of the programme track Annual themes and the folder Olympic Games.