Sunday, May 26, 2024



In Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Curitiba and Fortaleza protests against the World Cup are mixed with slogans calling for political participation, and quality transport and public services. Here are seven reasons why the party is turning into a protest.  1.     Cost v. Legacy R$27.billion (£7.91 billion) has already been spent on the World Cup and the current forecast is a total of R$33 billion (£9.53bn), a sum approaching the total of the federal education budget for this year, R$38 billion (almost £11bn). This prioritisation of resources is what the people are questioning in the streets, and the concentration of public money on the building of football grounds, which in many cases, such as Manaus and Cuiabá, are turning into ‘white elephants’ with no future use. In addition, the urban transport works – portrayed by the government as the main legacy for the host cities and currently budgeted at R$12 billion (£3.47bn) – prioritise road links for cars (viaducts, avenue-widening) and routes between airports, hotels and grounds that are not necessarily the priority for day-to-day urban transport. A clear example is Itaquera, São Paulo, where the works called for by the community have been suspended while investment steams ahead on access to the football ground. Promises of investment in public transport, such as the building of the Salvador underground and the Gold Line monorail in São Paulo, were removed from the ‘responsibilities matrix’ (the federal budget for the World Cup), and public transport has even got worse in Rio de Janeiro with the absence of the traditional tram. This has not been running since 2011 after an accident, which residents claim was caused by a wrongheaded modernisation project (which has had to be re-done and is not yet ready). Riot police with shields Finally urban transport works are the main cause of community relocations, threats to the environment, and loss of public facilities. 2.    Violent Removals and Unwanted Demolitions  The social movements have calculated that 170,000 people have either already been relocated or are receiving compensation payments of between R$3,000 (£867) and R$10,000 (just under £3,000), for those who can prove that they are owners, and grants to help towards the rent, of less than one minimum salary (£196 per month), for the rest. Quite often the evictions are carried out violently, with no transparency or dialogue between the authorities and the residents. For example, in the slum known as the Morro da Providência in Rio de Janeiro, people only discovered that they were going to be evicted when markings appeared on their houses, without any prior negotiation. In addition to their homes, the residents also lost their communities, which in some cases were hundreds of years old, their friends, neighbours and traditions.  Usually they are sent far from their roots and their ordinary lives and lose the urban facilities of the more central neighbourhoods – a case in point is the threatened community of Paz in Itaquera, São Paulo.  The compensations received are much less than the cost of rents and property in the neighbourhoods affected by the World Cup works, another factor in moving them so far – far also from those who have the power to take the decisions about their fate.  The property speculation around the football grounds and the improvements to make the cities more attractive to tourists are driving out residents from this progress, whether on the hillside slums of Rio de Janeiro or in the eastern area of São Paulo, worsening the already huge housing shortage in Brazil’s big cities. Police evict indigenous from the Indigenous Museum in Rio Social and cultural heritage has also been damaged, as shown by the eviction of the representatives of indigenous groups who were occupying the former Indian Museum in Rio de Janeiro, venerated by anthropologists as a symbol of the relationship between indigenous and whites in Brazil. The character of the historic Maracanã football ground in Rio de Janeiro was also destroyed by a renovation that has already cost R$1.2 billion in public funds and was accompanied by the destruction of public sports facilities, such as the Célio Barros gymnasium, to build car parks and access roads around the ground. 3.    Emergency Legislation to meet FIFA’s Demands  Since Brazil signed the agreement with FIFA, the government has been creating laws by presidential decree to guarantee the interests of FIFA and its partners (the General World Cup Law), to allow states and municipalities to incur debt beyond the limits of the law on fiscal responsibility to invest in construction for the World Cup, to shorten the environmental licensing procedure and to dispense with the normal tendering process. Here are some examples of the damage that this legislation has done to the population:
  • Exclusion zones.  FIFA establishes an area with a two-kilometre radius around the football grounds – the exclusion zone – as its territory.  Here it controls the circulation of people and the sale of products, monitors  the use of the brands it considers its own (including even the name of the event and the mascot), makes sure that only its patrons’ products, from beer to hamburgers, are sold, and takes charge of security.  According to the NGO Streetnet, in South Africa 100,000 street vendors lost their livelihoods during the 2010 World Cup, and a similar situation – defined as a violation of the right to work and harassment for working in a public space – is forecast for Brazil, where more than a thousand street vendors have already lost their sites as a result of construction work in preparation for the tournament, mainly in Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Cuiabá, Fortaleza and Porto Alegre.
  • Tax exemptions and legal excesses.  Crimes and penalties created to protect the interests of FIFA and its partners –for example, anyone who uses the symbols of the event to promote events in restaurants and bars, or breaches the exclusivity of FIFA’s brands, is punished – is one of the absurdities allowed by the General World Cup Law.  The law also grants tax exemptions to a series of bodies and individuals nominated by FIFA, which reduces Brazil’s tax take even though the country has to take all legal responsibility for accidents and incidents, damage and lawsuits, including paying the legal bills of FIFA and its partners.
  • Huge state and municipal construction projects irrelevant or contrary to the interests of the population.  The most glaring example is the building of an aquarium in Fortaleza, with no architectural assessment and various problems with the environmental impact assessment, at a cost of over RS$280 million (£81 million) when Ceará (the state of which Fortaleza is capital) is suffering one of its worst droughts. In São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and other host cities state and municipal authorities have also contributed public money to investments in football grounds that will subsequently be handed over to private companies. In Natal the building of the football ground is threatening the famous sand dunes, and in Recife a hitherto preserved area is being completely altered to build facilities connected with the World Cup, such as hotels and service buildings for the ground.
  • Inflated budgets, cost overruns and misuse of public funds.  Brazil’s seven largest construction companies – who are also the main donors of campaign funds for the main parties and politicians – have benefited from Law 12.462/2011, ‘Differential Public Contracts System’, which fixes prices and increases them by means of additional clauses, frequently said to be necessary because of the speed required for the work or for the need to redesign misconceived projects.  The federal accounts tribunal has already found irregularities in the Arena Amazonia in Manaus, in the alterations done to the Maracanã stadium, in the construction of the stadium in Brasília and in the work done to Manaus airport. The Brasília Public Ministry, the government regulator, has started prosecution for inflated budgeting and other irregularities in connection with the Brasília urban train system.
 4. Violation of the Right to Information and Political Participation In the Dossier of Human Rights Violations, social movements also claim that the right to information and participation in decision-making processes have been “trampled by FIFA, IOC and local committees”, which claim that “projects associated with the World Cup and the Olympics are not subject to public debate”. Social movements in all host cities have attacked the lack of information and debate on projects affecting communities and neighbourhoods, with the master plans approved by city councils often being ignored. Neighbourhood associations also complain of public hearings that only go through the motions, and the absence of more effective mechanisms for civil society participation in projects that affect their homes, their neighbourhoods, their cities. 5. Mounted police using tear gas  Greater Violence from the Police and FIFA’s Security Guards The Federal Government is budgeted to invest R$1.8 billion (£525 million) in security for the World Cup. The Ministry of Justice says it has already invested R$562 million (£164 million) and the Ministry of Defence R$630 million (£183 million). For an outlay of R$49.5 million (£14.5 million), the federal government has signed a deal to purchase  thousands of non-lethal weapons from Condor – the company that is supplying the tear gas used against protesters in Turkey, the same tear gas which is being used in Brazil at the moment to control the protests around the Confederations Cup. The contract, in force until 31 December 2014, provides for the supply of 2,200 non-lethal short-range kits (pepper spray, tear gas grenades with chip traceability, stun grenades for indoor and outside use, and sound and light explosives); 449 kits of non-lethal short-range cartridges with rubber bullets and expandable cartridges (bullets which expand on contact with the skin and do not cause skin wounds); 1,800 taser guns; and over 8,300 stun grenades, over 8,300 light and sound grenades, 8,300 tear gas grenades and 50,000 pepper sprays. Inside the grounds and in the exclusion zones, security will be in the hands of private companies, chosen according to FIFA’s instructions but paid for by the federal government.  It was noted that the police had at its disposal a surprisingly large amount of equipment to deal with the recent demonstrations in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, and this was because it was using arms and ammunition purchased for the Confederations Cup. Besides the emergency legislation discussed in the previous section, which includes the creation of new offences to protect FIFA brands and its exclusion zone, the bill entitled PL 728/2011, which is being debated in Congress at the moment, creates the crime of “terrorism “, something that has not existed in Brazilian legislation since the end of the military dictatorship. It makes it possible to impose stiff penalties on those who promote “widespread panic”. For social movements, the bill, which is couched in rather vague language, may make it possible to criminalise demonstrations as long as these are seen as causing widespread panic. Luxury stadiums price out ordinary fans6.    ‘Elites Only’ Football Grounds and Ticket Prices The work carried out in Brazilian football grounds to make them conform with FIFA’s recommendations has decreased or eliminated the areas available for poor people, expanding the areas for boxes and numbered seats, particularly  in the Maracanã and the Mineirão, which have lost nearly 50% of their capacity. As a result, ticket prices have risen, even for non-World Cup matches, going up from the R$40-60 (£11-17) currently charged in the stands to at least R$160 (£46) in Maracanã, for example. While 200,000 people watched the final between Brazil and Uruguay in the Maracanã in 1950, only 74,000 tickets will go on sale for the final in 2014. Whereas in 1950 80% of the tickets were sold to the ordinary public, today many of these cheap tickets have been eliminated to make way for padded seats in the VIP area. FIFA is also demanding new patterns of behaviour from the fans, which is completely at odds with the traditional culture of exuberance and participation that characterises Brazilian football. It is insisting that the crowd remains seated, without the customary dancing, samba percussion and flag dances. The World Cup is likely to increase sex tourism7.    Increased trafficking and Violence against Women, Adolescents and Children Fortaleza, Natal and Salvador are major destinations for sex tourism, which brings men to Brazil in search of women, transvestites, adolescents and children, a situation likely to get worse with the World Cup. In partnership with the Heinrich Böll Foundation, ESPLAR, an NGO that works with women in Ceará and is a member of the Joint Committee for the World Cup, has published information in a DVD about an expected increase in sex tourism around the World Cup. According to the lawyer Magnolia Said, who coordinated the production of this material, an increase in internal trafficking (from the countryside to the state capitals in the Northeast) of women and adolescents is already occurring because of work being carried out for the World Cup. A report published by the Pública news agency has also detected the movement of transvestites from Fortaleza to São Paulo to have silicone implants, which they will pay for by working for free for the pimps who are paying for the surgery.

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