July 25, 2013
Pope Francis' visit to Brazil is turning out to be rather consequential
Pope Francis is in Brazil this week. His visit is related to the "World Youth Day", an opportunity to preach the faith to thousands of young people in the largest Catholic country in the world.
You will see images of Pope Francis greeted by many well-wishers and happy faces. However, there is a lot of anger in Brazil and the Pope won't avoid it:
1) The population is fed up with prices and the high cost of living. I could not believe this information from this week's NY Times:
"Shoppers here with a notion of what items cost abroad need to brace themselves when buying a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone: the same model that costs $615 in the United States is nearly double that in Brazil. An even bigger shock awaits parents needing a crib: the cheapest one at Tok & Stok costs over $440, more than six times the price of a similarly made item at Ikea in the United States.
For Brazilians seething with resentment over wasteful spending by the country's political elite, the high prices they must pay for just about everything -- a large cheese pizza can cost almost $30 -- only fuel their ire. "
Wonder what we would say if we had to pay $30 for a large pizza?
2) Brazil is not as Catholic as it used to be:
"While Brazil still has more Catholics than any other nation -- an estimated 123 million -- rising secularism and the fast-growing Protestant churches have challenged centuries of Catholic supremacy in Latin America's largest country. Only 65 percent of the Brazilian population now identifies itself as Catholic, down from 92 percent in 1970." (NY Times)
3) Brazilians are really angry at the lack of priorities. They've watched their government spend millions of dollars in preparations for the World Cup and Olympics. However, public services, from bus service to health care, have not received the same attention.
This is from a young man in the streets:
""We've got nothing against the pope," said Christopher Creindel, a 22-year-old art student from Rio who was protesting outside the palace. "This protest is against our politicians." "
Pope Francis did not choose Brazil for his foreign tour. However, there are many in Brazil who see his visit as a double blessing:
They get to cheer the new and very popular Pope from neighboring Argentina, and,
They get to tell the world's media about the problems in their country.
Many of us were wrong about Brazil. We've been hearing about all of the growth and boom. However, we are now learning that there are a lot of Brazilians left out.
It's the old "macro vs micro" problem. The "macro" looks good to economists in the world's universities or investors in Wall Street. However, the "micro" does not, specially if you are part of the lower middle classes in Brazil.
Or as Tip O'Neill once said: "All politics is local". We are seeing that in Brazil!