Brazil’s World Cup Protests Intensify as Country’s Politicians and FIFA Squirm

Nearly 1 million Brazilians took to the streets on June 20 as anger over social inequity and corruption has sparked the biggest scenes of dissent in the country in more than two decades

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Nelson Antoine / AP

Demonstrators burn flags of the Workers' Party on Paulista Avenue, where crowds gathered to celebrate the reversal of a fare hike on public transportation in São Paulo on June 20, 2013

When FIFA rolled into Brazil with the Confederations Cup earlier this month it thought the two-week tournament might be chaotic, but it can’t have imagined the chaos would verge on revolution.

The anger that erupted across Brazil this week did not start because of the multibillion-dollar state investment in new football stadiums. But with hospitals, schools and public transport all woefully underfunded, the glitzy monoliths that were built so quickly at FIFA’s behest have become a convenient focal point for a new generation of protest. The sustained public demonstration of anger is the largest display of dissent in the country for more than 20 years.

“Those responsible for the 2014 World Cup thought they could do what they wanted and that no one would do anything,” says Amir Somoggi, a finance and marketing consultant who works with some of Brazil’s biggest football clubs. “But this popular uprising shows that we are changing. Could it have come earlier? Yes. But it’s never too late to highlight the joke that is ridiculous public investment in stadium with little concern for public opinion.”

(MORE: Scenes From Brazil’s Angry Nationwide Protests)

The unrest hit this week’s World Cup warm-up competition hard enough for organizers to officially deny that they were considering calling a halt to proceedings. “At no stage has FIFA, the local organizing committee, or the federal government discussed or considered canceling the FIFA Confederations Cup,” said spokesman Pekka Odriozola. “We have not received any request to leave from any team.”

Nevertheless, FIFA and its partners in the Brazilian government must be concerned that if the anger persists it could create a hostile environment for next year’s tournament, which is FIFA’s cash cow. Thousands of people in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday night chanted, “There’s not going to be a World Cup!”

FIFA raked in more than $4 billion in the four years leading up to the last World Cup. It is banking on a bumper turnout in Brazil, which is the home of the world’s most celebrated national team — the only one to win the World Cup five times. Some 600,000 people are expected to travel to South America for the monthlong competition next year.

Some protesters are now asking foreigners to boycott the event. They don’t object to the World Cup per se, and being Brazilian they’re certainly not against football. But the existence of such a blatant double standard as beautiful, if unfinished, stadiums set against a country rife with slums and underfunded schools and hospitals has lit a spark.

“Some politicians argue that the World Cup and Olympics are the incentive our country needed to get better,” a woman called Carla Dauden said in a monologue widely circulated on YouTube. “So we’ve been paying taxes all these years for what? The truth is that most of the money that comes from the games and the stadiums goes straight to FIFA, and we don’t even see it.”

(MORE: Brazil’s Protests: Social Inequality and World Cup Spending Fuel Mass Unrest)

FIFA boss Sepp Blatter felt that anger up close on Saturday when he and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff were booed by fans at the Brazil-Japan match in Brasília. His blue-blazered colleagues also felt the heat at games across the country as riot police used tear gas, dogs and rubber bullets to keep protesters away from stadiums. Tens of thousands of fans have protested outside games in Salvador, Brasília, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte as nationwide protests have grown. On Thursday night, close to 1 million people were estimated to have demonstrated in 100 cities across the country.

Blatter fled the frying pan and headed for the fire on Wednesday when he traveled to Turkey for the opening match of the Under-20 World Cup. Before disappearing, he gave an interview claiming all Brazilians would see the benefits of the World Cup through improved airports, hotels, highways and telecoms.

“I can understand that people are unhappy,” Blatter told Rio’s O Globo newspaper. “But football is here to unite people. Football is here to build bridges, to generate excitement, to bring hope. Brazil asked to host the World Cup. We didn’t force it on them. It’s obvious that stadiums need to be built but that isn’t the only thing in a World Cup: there are highways, hotels, airports and a lot of other items that remain as a legacy.”

The problem is that the legacy isn’t happening, or at least not as Blatter imagines. Brazil was awarded the 2014 World Cup in 2007 but it wasted almost two whole years before choosing which cities would host the games. Now, with time running out, at least five of those cities admit they won’t have their promised bus lanes, underground and tram lines ready for next June, if at all.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the stadiums have ballooned over budget as FIFA demands elevators, executive boxes and other luxuries — leading many to point the finger at Brazil’s construction companies, greedily reaping in the benefits. For Brazilians used to the third-rate construction that is the norm in the country, the gleaming first-world stadiums came as a shock. By Thursday, just a week after protests began in earnest, FIFA and its allies in Brazil’s Congress and the construction industry had become some of the prime targets.

“The protests are important because the money being spent on stadiums could have been spent on health, hunger, housing,” said Eduardo Martins, a fan attending the Italy-Japan game at the brand new Arena Pernambuco in Recife on Wednesday night. “These stadiums were meant to cost millions and now we’re paying billions. They could have been built for less. But they are overbudget because the politicians want their cut.”

What the politicians most want now is to understand what’s going on. They have admitted to being perplexed at the outrage, and that makes it hard for them to dampen the demos. Rousseff said she was “proud” of the “voices calling for change,” which was not surprising given that she herself is a former revolutionary jailed for her activism. She canceled a planned trip to Japan and ordered an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday. It’s unclear where the protests will go from there, but the fires that have been lit will be difficult to put out.

MORE: What Brazil’s Protests Say About Latin America’s Fumbling Elites

58 comments
lucio
lucio

A situação é tão nojenta que as pessoas ligadas ao evento da copa das confedereções e copa do mundo, quando sentiram que os anunciantes em mídia recuaram e recuarão mais, simplesmente apresentaram uma conta de 5 bilhões de dólares para o governo e a população pagaram; a desculpa: aumento no valor das obras dos estádios por conta das manifestações.

caleberlin
caleberlin

@TIME @TIMEWorld It'd be great if the world cup is shifted to England. Both Brazilians and the English would benefit from it.

TimothySteele
TimothySteele

Typical behavior from people sufering from brain damage after having hit a soccerball with their heads repeatedly all their lives. You people are idiots.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

Predictions:

1) These protests will change nothing in Brazilian politics or society.

2) After such a 'welcome,' FIFA will not hold another sporting event in Brazil for 10 years.

3) If the Brazilians actually protest during the games, expect to see that number jump to 30 years.

4) If the protests are not sufficiently suppressed, expect to see copy-cat protests across the country every 2-3 years.

DeeMurty
DeeMurty

@TIME FIFA could do a better job of demonstrating & communicating the long term economic benefits (if any) of hosting such an event.

cecilcp2013
cecilcp2013

@TIME Please can you help me as my human rights have been breached and no one is helping me to get this sorted and resolved.

WsStephenson
WsStephenson

@TIME @TIMEWorld Voters are fed up with corrupt politicians ignoring their own people's needs. Start looking after your own poor first.

finsfan_ct
finsfan_ct

Bring the World Cup to the US!!

That way the protesters can enjoy seeing the stadiums built and NO benefit AT ALL!

Do you think that anything good will come from causing havoc at these events?  The government will STILL be corrupt and FIFA will be too scared to bring the World Cup there next year.

For those of you that think Americans don't understand your plight, consider the fact that OUR country is also on the verge of a meltdown.  SURE our hospitals are well above par but many Americans can't afford to get sick because they can't afford health insurance!

Our government is corrupt too!  They take bribes except, in the US, they are called "lobbyists/campaign contributors".  Our government doesn't speak for us.  The average American doesn't want to be spending more on defense than the rest of the world combined!  We stick our noses into EVERY SINGLE conflict in the world.  Meanwhile, we have growing unemployment, families that go hungry every day.  America is judged on the top 1% when, the truth is, the average American has more in common with the average Brazilian than we do with the American Rich!

If these protests DO work, can you come to the US and teach OUR citizens how to unite against a government that is failing US?!

ziad777h
ziad777h

NO I THINK THE PROTESTORS  WORDS  IS ABOUT MONEY SPENDING IN WORLD CUP STADIUMS 

ITS THE MONEY THE GOVERMANT SPEND ON STADIUMS , LOOKS LIKE THERE IS POVERTY BETWEEN THOSE PROTESTORS 


AND SOME OF BIG SOCCER PLAYERS BACKED THAT PROTESTS , THEN WHILE THERE IS POVERTY AND BAD SERVICE IN HOSPITALS AND SCHOOLS , THEY WANT TO SPEND MONEY ON THOSE INSTEAD OF WORLD CUP STADIUMS 


AND THEY SAID THEY BUILD STADIUMS BUT THEY RAISED THE PRICES OF TICKETS AND BUSSES, SO HOW THOSE PROTESTORS BRING THAT RISEN MONEY TO ATTEND SOCCER GAMES


THE GOVERMENT HAS RIGHT TO BUILD STADIUMS BUT RAISING MONEY ON THEMSELFS AND THE PROTESTORS WHAT DRIVE THEM TO  PROTEST ,  OTHER WISE THEY SHOULD KEEP THE CHARGES OF BUSSES AND FOOTBALL TICKETS.


THE PROTESTORS  HAVE 90% RIGHT.

Danisartori1
Danisartori1

It's not about the price of bus ticket. Most protesters are middle class students who don't depend on buses for transportation

It's also not about taxes - better yet its about how those taxes are being used.

They want:

Healthcare

Education

Public transportation

And above all:

The END on money in politics and the type of kickback and corruption it causes! (Like Koch brothers and big oil or armed force contractors we have here)

They don't want the type of oligarch democracy with big Coorporations controlling government

They want a true democracy (like we use to have remember) from the people, by the people and TO the people!

They have the correct goal in mind. That why they income inequality has being reduced by unprecedented numbers while our have risen just as fast!

Brazil is PRO middle class

That's WHY it has a booming economy!

And they will get it! Those are the same people and the same tactics that brought down the dictatorship in the 80's. They've done it before and they will do it again! I know, I was there.

The police initially attacked the protesters (when it was about the bus) THAT response got EVERYBODY on the street. Millions (with an S)

São Paulo alone had to divide into 3 location - Salvador, Curitiba, Brasilia, Rio, you name every major city had hundreds of thousand as each! Even small towns closed their major avenues!

Don't think for a minute is about taxes or diminishing role of government! It's about making Gov work. It's about quality public services instead of big stadiums (pan et circus)

It's not a much more Occupy Wall Street than Tea Party!

The protests got much bigger because military policy attacked the first demonstrators. We have to understand that it was protests just like this one that brought the military ditactorship down.

Now what you have on the streets are people of very different political ideologies marching hand in hand. They might not even agree with what is being protested but they agree with the right to protest. It is now ingrained into Brazilian culture! The streets belong to the people and they will not relinquish the right of assembly. It's a visceral reaction now! Not one person in Brazil want ditactorship back!!! They are very united indeed and the 80's march have thought them I lesson in proud to say they have not forgotten!

Another thing to consider is that the "Diretas Ja" protests that brought the ditactorship down did little to change the culture - cultural changes take much more time anyway - now what you are seeing is the second part of the same revolution. Where Brazilians are finally taking down the governmental culture of corruption and kick backs. The culture that did not allow right of assembly and allowed the military police to crack down on demonstrators with violence. Brazil does not want ditactorship back, or its tactics, even when clothed by the label of democracy.

Brazilians are very smart cleaning their government and wanting to take money out of politics. Their goal is not to dismantle government, their goal is to make it better! We should do the same!

quikev08
quikev08

Where's a 'whiff of grapeshot' when you need it?  Down Croppies! Lie down!

All that's needed is someone with the gumption - and the body armor, tear gas, tasers, rifles and live ammo, to protect the good citizens from the evildoers.

Egad!

anyaigo
anyaigo

@TIME Let them alter WorldCup venue to Nigeria

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

seems like a nation that is confused at modern economics 

owinewton
owinewton

@TIME The Arab Spring gives way to a Brazil Spring. But not the spring we associate with Copa Cabana

shoubagy
shoubagy

@TIME current government is corrupt,swindling us,money laundering with corrupt egyptian regime,END TYRANNY WELCOME FREEDOM,corrupt president

Beth_Rage
Beth_Rage

@TIME @TIMEWorld Brazilian protester video goes viral, demanding 70% reduction in government salaries. http://tinyurl.com/k2twoh4

jabberwolf
jabberwolf

This is what happens with Socialism.. you run out of peoples money to spend/redistribute .. and you borrow and raise taxes to maintain past promises. Brazil's taxes on everything in life are rising and quality of government and services in return is getting worse.

This is what Obama is doing --- Ben Bernanke stops the QE and the fake market recovery shows itself... its not a real recovery, only borrowing from the future and stalling.

BRuprising
BRuprising

Promises will be made and superficial “gifts” will be distributed to the population in an effort to diffuse the revolt. More than protests, Brazil will need a painful revolution, that demands a complete restructuring of its oversized, inefficient and corrupt-ridden public administrations

PhilipWayne
PhilipWayne

Will there be an uproar about the billions wasted on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio?  Based on what I saw in London,  it is a total waste of money,  in a country that is primarily poor.

Jackie_Jackie
Jackie_Jackie

@lucio mas isso e' verdade? qual e' a fonte? Se for verdade precisa ser mostrado ao pubico.

dontupac
dontupac

@Hadrewsky  Modern Economics is not corruption, especially at the level some of these countries are experiencing. I'm happy that the Brazilians who have heart and are standing up and fighting back, unlike in other countries where they let anybody step all over them. You can only step over someone so much, eventually more corrupt governments will feel the heat in the near future. We can only hope it is peaceful and violence is at a minimum or non-existent. 

alemoreirapires
alemoreirapires

@JulianDouglass yeap. Sometimes I am ashamed of this all. But I have my own company and create jobs to improve the Brazil motivates me.

alemoreirapires
alemoreirapires

@JulianDouglass 4 U that studies policy would be very valuable, Brazil is a place of enormous social differences. I LUV my country btw.