Brazil’s Poor Pay World Cup Penalty

Source: The Progressive Magazine

On June 15, the opening day of the Confederations Cup in Brazil — a warmup to the World Cup — thousands protested across the country against the amount of money being spent to host these mega-events. With signs that said “We don’t need the World Cup” and “We need money for hospitals and education”, protesters were sprayed with tear gas and dispersed with rubber bullets before the opening match in Brasilia. At least 39 were injured and 30 were arrested. Inside the stadium, president Dilma Roussef was booed as she inaugurated the Brazil-Japan match. Today, June 17, there are protests going on all over the country. Why are soccer-crazy Brazilians so upset?

On a warm evening this past February, about 100 residents of the Bairro da Paz, a favela located on the periphery of the northeastern Brazilian city of Salvador da Bahia, gathered in a community center to hear a presentation by Ney Campello, Bahia’s secretary of state for the World Cup. Perched on a hill not far from the city’s airport, Bairro da Paz is one of Salvador’s most politically active slums, and the crowd that evening included schoolteachers, health care workers, and youth activists anxious to hear firsthand how the 2014 World Cup would affect their community.

Campello seemed keenly aware of the tension that clung to the evening air as he cracked a few jokes before launching into a peppy speech on the multiple benefits of hosting soccer’s greatest tournament. Residents patiently listened as he described plans that included creating thousands of construction and service jobs, recruiting volunteers, erecting canopies with giant TV screens for the matches, and providing free English lessons under a program called Olá turista (“Hello, tourist”).

As Campello concluded his talk, several residents jumped from their seats for a turn at the microphone. “What about the evictions?” asked a young man.

“Can you tell us about plans to build a road through our neighborhood?” asked a woman.

“We need health care and education, not mega-events,” said an older man to applause.

Nearby, local journalist Paulo Almeida broadcast the event live on Bairro da Paz’s community radio station.

As a parade of residents made their claims, Campello seemed overwhelmed. “I have to get back to you with that,” he kept repeating.

“We are not interested in waving Brazilian flags or volunteering for the World Cup,” said longtime Bairro da Paz resident and community activist Rafael Lima after Campello had left. “We need jobs. We need education. We need land titles. We need health care.
And we need to know where this road they are planning to build is going, and who will be affected.”

Bairro da Paz is just one of many poor communities in Brazil facing evictions due to construction projects related to the 2014 World Cup, which will be held in twelve cities throughout the country, and the 2016 Summer Olympics, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro. As the Confederations Cup, a warm-up to the World Cup, kicked off this past June 15 in Brasilia, thousands of people in Brazil have already been expelled from their homes, many in the middle of the night, as bulldozers waited nearby to make room for roads, stadiums, and other infrastructure. Citizens have responded by creating a network of organizations to monitor and report abuses.

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