Brazil is anything but calm. Shortly after the end of the summer Olympics, the Senate impeached President Dilma Rousseff and removed her from office. This came about after a corruption probe revealed widespread bribery among the political elite. On top of the political turmoil, the country’s economy is predicted to shrink 3.3 percent this year after a 3.8 percent contraction in 2015, already Brazil’s worst recession on record. But the moment the country’s political order actually began to unravel was in 2013, when millions of people across the country took to the streets with a range of demands from affordable public transportation to fixes to the government bureaucracy. The system shock of these “June Journeys” served as a catalyst in pushing the country in opposite directions—left and right.
Two young protestors from Rio de Janeiro, Mayara Donaria and Gustavo Mota, were among those who gathered in what were considered Brazil’s largest protests in 20 years. Donaria is a leftist student from the low-income Rio favela of Maré and marched with friends who were involved in social justice campaigns, principally against police violence. Mota, who leans right, runs a graphic design startup in the condo-packed beachside Rio neighborhood of Barra and has called for less government regulation on businesses.
The two don’t know each other, but they both campaigned vigorously in the lead-up to Rio's municipal elections this month—which have served as a referendum on pro-corporate politicians in the city—but at opposite ends of Brazil’s dizzying political spectrum. Donaria wanted safer communities and for those living in the favelas to be directly involved in crafting public policy, and Mota campaigned for a leaner city budget. These two young Brazilians, who once marched the same streets together, were now at the opposite poles of a divisive struggle over the future of their country. In fact, it was Brazilians like them, operating outside of the traditional political unions and parties, whose new demands on power put into question the compromises
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