Brazil Revolt: V For Vinegar, V For Vendetta
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Food items have played a crucial role in history, and here is another example where a common food item played a huge role in the fight against rising costs in Brazil. It was in 2013 when the police in Brazil arrested a man for possession of a bottle of vinegar. The arrest led to widespread protests across cities there. The man arrested was a journalist named Pierro Locatelli, who used a cloth soaked in vinegar, which "neutralizes" the effects of tear gas.

The police claimed that the arrest was necessary because vinegar can be used to make bombs, which is why they did what they did. Whether or not vinegar works is a different question, but there were Facebook campaigns calling for it to be legalized. Posters said "V" stood for both "vinegar" and "vendetta."

Vinegar Revolt

The Vinegar Movement, or Vinegar Revolt, was a series of revolts held in several Brazilian cities, started by the organization Movimento Passe Livre, or Free Fare Movement, that were demanding free public transportation for the local people.

The streets of Brazil looked like a war zone, with police and protestors frequently clashing. It was triggered by the rise in the city’s public transport fares from an equivalent of 9 cents to about $1.47. Although it may not sound like a lot, it does make a difference to those earning the minimum wage of only 678 reals ($300) a month.

You see, getting around So Paulo is difficult due to traffic, which is a challenge given the city's population of 11 million people and 7 million vehicles. The buses and underground rail are too crowded, and it can take hours to go to even a place that is close by. To sum it up, the people of Brazil end up spending most of their money on mobility, and increasing the fare once again wasn’t going down well with the people.

The Salad Uprising

The rising cost of transportation was just one of the reasons for the protests, because even after a number of cities lowered the fares, the protests continued. The protestors were concerned that the government was trying to rob the people of their salads. There was a 122% increase in the price of tomatoes in comparison to the year before, and people were now marching together for the "March for Vinegar Legalization’. 

Finally, in June of 2013, the Brazilian government allowed the use of vinegar for revolutionary and gastronomic purposes. This led to a peaceful protest in São Paulo, where more than 60,000 people marched together carrying bottles of salad dressing, including vinegar. They were protesting against what they saw as several injustices, from police brutality to corruption in the government. They were also scathing in their criticism of the government for spending billions on hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2014 as well as the Summer Olympics in 2016.

Corruption and Embezzlement

The general public had a feeling of powerlessness because of widespread cases of corruption and embezzlement by the government and a lack of transparency and financial accountability. The politicians are not moved by allegations of corruption and shamelessly continue to stay in power despite the people demanding for them to go. The protesters were against the ruling party and wanted a change in power, but their voices were not being heard by the defiant rulers, and that was causing them to get frustrated day after day.  

The common people were not convinced that they should pay high taxes as the average Brazilian is estimated to pay 40.5% income tax and yet there is hardly any spending by the government on infrastructure, health, and education, with a low rate of employment. Prior to the protests, the PT-PMDB coalition government enjoyed 81.6% of the seats and a whopping 80% popularity. But after the protests, support for the government dropped sharply and was never as high again.

Brazilians still fear the military.

The real cause of the dissatisfaction, however, according to some experts, is the fact that Brazilians are still not used to democracy. For 20 years, up until 1985, the military ruled the populace with an iron fist. Brazil still has a military police force to control law and order, one that the common people view as aggressive.

In September of 2013, then-President Dilma Rousseff vowed to spend 50 billion reals on urban public transportation after a meeting with leaders. The Brazilian real started reeling under the widening deficit with a 10 percent fall in the currency, making it the worst-performing currency amongst the 16 major ones.