The mass demonstrations that broke out in Brazil on 6 June 2014 began as a protest against a rise in bus and metro fares in Sao Paolo (organized by the leftist and anarchistic Movement for Free Passes), but a brutal police response prompted the demonstrations to swell rapidly in numbers and spread across the country. As a movement erupted the demands also grew, including improvement in social services such as transport, health and education, calls for electoral and constitutional reform and opposition to corruption. Another central focus for protests was the lavish government expenditure on preparations for holding the World Cup in the summer of 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. This expenditure should, demonstrators asserted, have been directed instead to improving the welfare of ordinary Brazilians.
The protests drew on students and young people alienated by the link between government and corporations and the role of money in politics, the poor from the slums, but also many from the middle classes. This diverse constituency and the largely spontaneous nature of the protests meant that the demonstrations lacked a clear sense of political priorities and had no organizational focus. The movement arose outside the party political system and although some protesters indicated support for small leftist parties and support for the ruling Workers’ Party waned during June 2014, there was no concerted call for President Dilma Roussef, who made a number of promises in response to the protests, to resign.
Demonstrations continued periodically in 2013 and into 2014 against the World Cup, and slum clearance and demolitions in preparation for the Olympics aroused anger in the favelas. But a movement on the scale of June 2013 did not reappear.
Postscript 2016: There were further protests up to the opening of the Olympic Games in August 2016 against the cost of the Games and the impact on the poor. But the central political issue from March to September 2016 was the impeachment of President Roussef. The impeachment campaign in Congress, on the charge of manipulating budgetary accounts, led by the Speaker of the Lower House, was backed by right wing parties and mass middle class demonstrations. It has understandably been interpreted by the left in Brazil as a right wing coup, especially as Roussef was replaced by the relatively right wing Vice President. But Roussef, voted out of office by the Senate in September, had also lost general public support (her approval rating falling as low as 10 per cent in the polls in 2016) due to the economic slump and the massive bribery scandal centred on the state-owned oil company Petrobas. This scandal implicated almost all parties, including the Workers’ Party. Roussef herself, however, has never been accused of personal corruption, unlike a large number of her Congressional opponents (including the Speaker of the Lower House).