Brazilians have resumed their protests against the cost of staging this summer’s World Cup, which starts next month. In a double whammy for Brazil’s politicians, the presidential election is only four months later.
The economy, which boomed for a decade, is slowing too, and inflation remains stubbornly high. Investment is dwindling, and the crime rate is heading up. Social unrest is on the rise.
May 15 was the International Day of Resistance to the World Cup, and Brazilians turned out in strength.
“We want to question the costs of the World Cup, Brazil lacks health, education and housing for many people. In reality the intention of the protest is for the government to understand that they need to re-evaluate their priorities,” said school teacher Leandro Fontes.
Itaquera Stadium in Sao Paulo has cost 328 million euros, and it is here the tournament kicks off… if it is ready in time.
The stadium was the target of the May 15 protests by the Homeless Workers’ Movement and the 2,500 families encamped on adjoining land. An estimated 170,000 families have been evicted to make way for the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
“It is shameful, really shameful. Not the stadium itself, but the fact that so much was spent on building the stadium, which has pushed up rents in the area, while there are no health services in the region. We don’t have a basic doctor’s surgery or a hospital. Why is that? Because they chose not to spend the money on health or education, but on these works, which have only worsened our housing problems,” said the HWM’s Simone Pedra.
In one Rio slum the NGO Rio de Paz staged a protest in a street classroom; many children are educated in the open-air because of a lack of proper school buildings and funds.
“What we want is to be treated the way that Valcke and Blatter are treated by the public bodies. They come here and bang on the table to set goals and time frames, things which we, as Brazilians, have no right to do. We make do with the worst public services with no prospect that things are going to change,” said Rio de Paz’s President, Antonio Costa.
The priority given to football, ahead even of children’s education, is making Brazilians angry, especially as some schools are even being closed during the World Cup to free up the traffic on the roads.