Since last year’s Confederations Cup, the streets of Rio have consistently drawn protests and demonstrations against FIFA’s decision to bring ‘the greatest show on earth’ to Brazil. With less than a month until the World Cup kicks off, there is sense of injustice amongst many, with billions having been spent on stadiums in a country where so many lack access to healthcare, education, housing and security. Eron Melo – a prosthetic technician from Marechal Hermes in Rio de Janeiro – is one such protester. The 32-year old has become a regular fixture on the streets of Rio as he dons an iconic Batman costume and campaigns almost daily against corruption and a perceived lack of justice.
“I have always asked myself why there is so much corruption in Brazil, yet people have never done anything about it. Why our public health and school systems are so bad? Why, we Brazilians, are still sleeping?”, confides Eron.
“Brazil doesn’t have the infrastructure to host the World Cup. It’s a country where education, health, transportation, housing and security are bankrupt; it is a country where nothing works. I don’t know what image the Brazilian Government is trying to transmit to the other countries, but whatever it is, it’s a lie. I am not against good opportunities for the country or soccer, but we have other priorities that should take precedence”.
During the Confederations Cup, Eron watched one of the biggest and most serious protests in Rio unfold on TV. Thousands took to the streets to complain about an increase in bus fares which triggered a series of intense protests throughout the country. Authorities were puzzled why people were going to the streets because of R$0,20, but like most Brazilians, Eron believed it was about much more than that. “By then we were very unhappy with the current situation of the country, fed up with many so cases of corruption and misuse of public funds. The increase in the bus fares was the last straw; we had to do something.”
Eron felt compelled to join the protests but wanted to be more than another face in the crowd. A caricature on social media of the Mayor of Rio depicted villainously as The Joker gave him the idea to dress as Batman and become the hero of the piece.
Despite the humorous outfit, he takes the role seriously and speaks articulately about many of Brazil’s corruption cases and the problems within each sector of the economy. His placards depict messages like ‘We demand FIFA standard hospitals’ – a reference to the high standards imposed by FIFA on stadiums used for World Cup games at the expense of funding for the likes of healthcare and eduction – and ‘We Must Resist’, a vow to continually press forward with social advocacy.
In the streets, people of all ages and backgrounds want to get a picture with him and children will come over for a hug with their comic book hero. There’s a mixture of support, respect and mockery, but amidst any criticism, Eron recognizes the need to keep focus and drive home the message he believes in so strongly. “I have a message to send to people and Batman is my voice. Brazilians can’t keep accepting what authorities have been doing to this country. We’ve had enough.”, he states.
For Eron, this is a pivotal time in Brazil’s history, with presidential elections around the corner, and the approaching World Cup and Olympic Games meaning the eyes of the World will be on the country.
He expects a step up in protests before and during the World Cup and will be doing all he can to draw attention to the changes needed in the country and the perceived injustice of pumping billions into events which won’t benefit the masses who struggle on a daily basis against the country’s social structures and lack of opportunity.
“I am totally against violence but I will keep going to the streets to protest. I will face my fears and I will help all Brazilians to do the same. This is my mission. Like me, everybody hopes to live in a better country”.
(Credit: Interview and words by Angelica Melo / Maruti Blue)