PARATY, Brazil (AP) — The fallout from the recent wave of protests that shook Brazil was felt even in the bucolic colonial town where the country's main literary festival was in full swing Friday.
In its 11th year, the Flip festival brings a roster of domestic and international writers to this sleepy port city for five days of debates, discussions, workshops and readings.
This year's edition includes talks by top Brazilian musicians Gilberto Gil and Maria Betania, legendary Brazilian filmmaker Nelson Pereira dos Santos, U.S. writer Tobias Wolff and British essayist Geoff Dyer.
Organizers added three round-tables to debate the protests, which started last month over a 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares in Sao Paulo and quickly snowballed into massive nationwide demonstrations against government corruption, high taxes and poor public services. The protests have since become scattered and small.
Talk of the protests, the largest Brazil had seen since demonstrations in 1994 that helped lead to the impeachment of then-President Fernando Collor, permeated many of the debates, even those ostensibly on completely different topics.
At a round table on "Local and Global Culture," singer-songwriter Gil described the movement as "demonstrations of fatigue."
"We have gotten to a point in Brazil where the state has stopped representing public interest and has begun representing private interests," said Gil, who served as culture minister under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose hand-picked successor Dilma Rousseff is the target of much of the protesters' anger. "We want a little bit of rest."
He said that while the protests here have tapped into the spirit of revolt that has swept the globe in recent years, with the Arab Spring and recent events in Egypt, the Occupy Wall Street movement, Spain's Indignados and the mass protests in Turkey, these demonstrations are essentially Brazilian in spirit, drawing heavily on the country's carnival tradition.
"There are a million individuals behind a million masks," Gil said. "It's like a Venetian Carnival ... politics as entertainment."
He added the violence that marred many of the larger protests, with a small number of young men using the crowds as cover to loot and vandalize, also draws on a time-honored Brazilian tradition — that of the so-called "arrastao," or mass robberies by gangs of dozens of thieves who overwhelm their victims.
Gil said that the demonstrations remain a force to be reckoned, even though they've flagged in recent days since the government scrambled to deliver a raft of proposals aimed at appeasing the streets.
"It's an alert that they (the government) have to look at another sort of agenda," he said, as the audience of several hundred people exploded in cheers. "The struggle continues."
A protest was slated to take place Saturday in Paraty, with its cobblestone streets and towering white churches. Flip runs through Sunday evening.