A viral image (posted above) from Brazil’s ongoing protests has stirred debate in Brazil — but not for the reason many would think.
Sure, the white couple and the maid pushing the stroller represent class disparity in the South American country, but that social issue is not the reason thousands of people are currently out on the streets.
First of all, a little background: This is not the first time such massive protests have broken out in Brazil.
The unrest officially set off in June 2013 following a transportation fare hike. Initially only young people set out to protest but, with time, more people joined in and the protests turned into a full-fledged movement against rampant corruption within government ranks.
Angry citizens finally had a platform to express their pent up frustrations against the plutocratic regime that appeared more interested in raking in money from soccer matches than addressing the common man’s needs and wants.
The movement became Brazil's largest since the 1992 protests against former President Fernando Collor de Mello.
But that was just the beginning.
After the state-owned oil group Petrobras reported gross debts of more than $135 billion, making it the world’s most indebted oil producer, a major scandal blew up in mid 2014 involving high-profile politicians, including President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva.
More protests erupted in the following days over alleged government corruption, as well as against the spiraling cost of the 2014 FIFA World Cup preparations.
Nothing really happened. Rousseff didn't resign and FIFA didn't suspend its multi-billion dollar tournament.
Tensions flared up once again in 2015 against sluggish economy and rising prices. Again, the president remained in power by the end of the year.
Protests then erupted in February as tens of thousands of people again took to the streets, demanding Rousseff’s impeachment. The turmoil — as of the time of writing this story — continues.
Although a majority of the protesters, according to a Brazilian polling institute Datafolha, belong to the rich, white population, the Brazilian government has enraged people belonging to all classes.
“It’s not just the rich. Everyone is suffering,” protester Claudia Brasilina, who is a house cleaner, told the Guardian. “Dilma is ruining the country. She has to go.”
There is class disparity, no doubt. “The distribution of the benefits of public social spending in Brazil is pro-rich,” according to the World Bank.
But the current agitation among Brazilians has more to do with government corruption than anything else.
And that’s exactly what, Claudio Pracownik, the man in the viral photo, explained in a scathing Facebook post in Portuguese.
Pracownik, who is the vice-president of finance at Rio de Janeiro’s Flamengo soccer club, expressed his outrage in the post, saying the photo was being misused to distract the world from the main reason behind the protests.
He added the woman pushing the stroller indeed works for him and that she should not be called a victim just because she works as a nanny.
“I treat her with respect and offer her the dignity to which any employee is entitled,” he wrote.
The viral photo surely symbolizes the divide between the rich and poor in Brazil but, for the protesters, it’s not emblematic of their struggle.