Hundreds of spectators lined the barricaded sidewalks and steps in front of the Massachusetts State House yesterday welcoming Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to the Commonwealth as her motorcade drove through the city and up Park Street around 12:30 p.m.
Making various stops in Boston and Cambridge, Rousseff’s visit is due in part to Governor Deval Patrick’s 10-day trip to South America, in December, where he announced that an agreement had been made for close-linked studies to be done between UMass Amherst’s Agricultural researchers and their counterparts in Brazil.
Crowds chanting “We Love You!” drowned out the yells of protesters from various organizations who held up signs. One of these organizations was a sect of Occupy Boston, Occupy the MBTA, who had set up “Camp Charlie” to protest the MBTA service cuts and fare hikes. On Monday night around 9:30 p.m., the Secret Service and State Police took control of the surrounding area, including the front of the State House where the occupiers had planned to stay until April 14. They are expected to be able to re-occupy the space after the President’s visit.
The Journal spoke with some welcomers in the crowd, gathering thoughts about the President’s visit.
“Well she stopped at MIT because they’re working on the subway for Sao Paulo,” said Gary Dotterman, who currently lives in Brazil. “She’s speaking at Harvard and she’s going to be greeting the Governor and probably the legislature here.” Rousseff’s visit to MIT comes a year after The Brazil-MIT Forum, a two-day event of collaboration between MIT and Brazil’s top innovators.
According to The Associated Press, Rousseff announced a new collaboration between the country and the school which would increase the amount of exchange students, while also beginning a new partnership between the MIT School of Engineering and the Instituto Tecnologico de Aeronautica (ITA) based out of Sao Paulo. This agreement is in hopes of innovative growth in the country.
Geraldo Dias mentioned that Rousseff will most likely have a few talking points with politicians, including the telecommunications system in place as well as the VISA Waiver Program,(VWP) which is currently in the works. The VWP would make it much easier for tourists and workers to gain access into the country. Rousseff met with President Obama on Monday.
“We have drastically cut down on visa wait times for Brazilian visitors to the United States,” said Obama, according to The Hill.
Dias spoke shortly before the motorcade sirens sounded from around the corner.
“We have a big population in the U.S.A.,” Dias said, while noting that there are many in the United States who are living here illegally. “At the same time, we have a lot of legal [immigrants] come here, stay here, and bring a lot of money to the U.S.A. —and finally they opened the doors to us.”
Another protest group present was Brazil Police Watch, a watchdog group started due to the death of one of the organization’s founder’s family members at the hands of a Rio De Janeiro Police Officer. Their poster featured the slogan “Don’t Kill For Me— Safe games for all!” with a picture of a soccer player and the Olympic logo. The Olympic games will take place in Brazil in 2016 with the FIFA World Cup preceding it in 2014.
No matter how loud the protesters were screaming, their voices were drowned out as the entire crowd began to sing Brazil’s National Anthem, Hino Nacional Brasileiro, while Rousseff walked up the State House steps.
As with any political figure, protesters are to be expected, followed by a heavy police presence.
“She’s the president, there’s always someone complaining,” said Dotterman.