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Right-Wing Comics, Young Libertarian Keep Protests Going In Brazil


We turn next to Brazil, a country embroiled in political unrest. Tens of thousands of people protested across the country yesterday, as they have for weeks. They're frustrated by an economy that's getting worse and a massive corruption scandal at the state-owned oil company. The protests are a problem for President Dilma Rousseff. A new opinion poll puts her approval rating at just 13 percent. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro was in Sao Paulo yesterday where she met some of the new faces of Brazil's latest protest movement.


LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: There were buses blasting rock music stationed every few blocks.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: And even a parade of low-riders tearing down Sao Paulo's main drag to chants of out with Dilma from the crowd. The protests in Sao Paulo Sunday seemed well-organized and well-funded and different from the ones that shook Brazil just before the World Cup. Instead of people coming out over a hike in bus fares, as they did then, one of the main protest leaders this time has been giving lectures about how the whole public transport system should be privatized. Meet the 19-year-old self-described libertarian who wants to take Dilma Rousseff down.

KIM KATAGUIRI: I am Kim Kataguiri, coordinator of the Free Brazil Movement.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: During the last round of protests, he was in high school.

KATAGUIRI: Our youth here in Brazil is most leftist. It's cool to be a leftist, but we are here to show that you don't need to be an old man that likes that dictatorships to be - if you defend free market. You can be cool also defending free market. That's our idea. That's the idea for the movement.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And it's made him an online celebrity known for his satirical videos of leftist leader President Rousseff. Basically they've taken a lot of the tactics of other left-leaning protest movements around the world and adapted them here for the Internet age. He says the time in Brazil is ripe for the right. But these aren't just a bunch of kids trying to topple the government. He's attracted some major star power.

DANILO GENTILE: (Foreign language spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Danilo Gentile is like the Jimmy Fallon or the Jimmy Kimmel of Brazil. He's a former standup comedian who has his own late-night show.

GENTILE: (Foreign language spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Our interview keeps on getting interrupted by people wanting to take pictures with him. But unlike most American late-night hosts, Gentile is very publicly political. He recently made a video supporting Kataguiri and saying he would be at the protest.

GENTILE: (Foreign language spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: "Yes, I think the government considers me an enemy," he says. In fact, the vice president of Dilma Rousseff's party, the PT, put his name on a public blacklist along with other comedians and journalists for "stimulating the reactionary and elite sectors of society and denigrating the poor." That's a quote.

GENTILE: (Foreign language spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: "It gives me an enormous pleasure to be part of that list," he tells me. "My work as a comic is being given recognition. If an authoritarian government is using its authoritarianism against me, it means my jokes are going to where I want them to go," he says.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: But jokes aren't the only threat to Rousseff. A poll from respected Datafolha over the weekend showed that 75 percent of people support the protests here, and corruption at the state oil company which is implicated Dilma Rousseff's government is now one of the major concerns of the country. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Sao Paulo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro
Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.