Not so long ago, everything seemed to be going pretty well for Brazil: the country of football, Carnival and Latin America’s biggest economy. The economy accelerated and quickly recovered from the international financial crisis, having grown by an impressive rate of 7,5% in 2010. On top of that, in 2007 the winner of the most World Cup victories was awarded with the honor of hosting the FIFA World Cup 2014 and the summer 2016 Olympic games. A wave of optimism and pride swept the country until Brazil’s confidence was shaken by the massive popular protests in 2013. In summer 2013, protests in Brazil made headlines around the world. What initially started in 2012 in cities like Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre and Natal, soon became part of a much larger movement in June and July, 2013, involving many more cities like São Paulo, Brasília and others. Increases in transport ticket prices may have triggered the demonstrations, but they quickly became a means of expression for the Brazilian people to show their discontent with issues such as: the lack of infrastructure; high inflation and costs of living; insufficiencies in public services (like education and health); corruption and inequality. It was not a coincidence that Brazil was hosting the Confederations Cup at the time. People’s frustration and disappointment was aggravated by the massive public investments in one of the most important sporting events: FIFA World Cup. In a country confronted with serious social and political problems, where taxes represent 36% of GDP, the billions of reals spent in all the preparations for the Cup seemed like the wrong priority.
The protests shocked the world with its violence, police repressions and size. According to ‘The Guardian’, the summer protests were reported in at least 80 cities, with a total turnout that may have reached 2 million people. Nothing had achieved these proportions and intensity since 1985, the end of Brazil’s dictatorship. The demonstrations have continued and threaten to disturb the Cup. The event has brought structural problems to the surface and its preparations have also come at a cost.
World Cup large construction projects have been associated with violations of basic human rights. These have been particularly evident in slums (favelas), where forced evictions have increased the vulnerability of thousands of people in the cities hosting the event. Some families have been relocated to completely distant locations away from their social network, whereas others have not been given proper compensation or consulted in any way. There have been cases of violence, threats and illegal break-ins. Online videos of people resisting and fighting for their right to housing in different favelas and communities have revealed the severities of a process that is affecting an estimated 170000 people.
Evictions are not the only thing frustrating favelas residents. Another criticism has targeted the pacifying police units and their role in favelas. Not only have they been criticized for their violence, but they also do not solve the deep-rooted problems of poverty and fragile living conditions of these areas. Discontentment has also risen among workers in construction sites: there have been strikes in stadiums and demands for wage increases and better working conditions. It is no wonder that Brazilian authorities are being accused of investing public money in a project that is contributing to exacerbate inequalities.
Delays in constructions have also defined Brazil’s preparation process. According to Joseph Blatter, president of FIFA, ‘No country has been so far behind in its preparations since I have been at FIFA even though it is the only host nation which has had so much time – seven years – in which to prepare.’ This is affecting not only the stadiums, but also communication infrastructure and airports. In addition, since many projects are costing much more than expected, there are suspicions of corruption and close ties between politicians and firms.
Preparations are putting people under strain, but what benefits can they expect from the event that promised to show Brazil’s rising economic power?
Benefits for the economy
Brazil is known for its specialization in agricultural products, manufacturing, mining and services. It is one of the BRICS and has been growing in the last decades, while lifting millions out of poverty. As the economy has lost its previous vitality in the last couple of years with bleak growth rates, the World Cup investments had promised countless benefits. They brought the infrastructure reform the country needed. Stadiums, highways, roads, metro lines, airports and public transport are all part of this reform. The Cup will also come with tourism, foreign investment and development of several sectors.
The exact number of billions spent on the Cup is not known and varies with sources. The multiplier effects are also not clear. In fact, both the real number of reals spent and the benefits for the Brazilian economy will only be known well after the event is over. A 2011 report by Ernst & Young Brazil claims the 22,46 billion reals spent will bring 112,79 billion into the Brazilian economy. Between 2010 and 2014, the report predicts the event will generate 3,63 million jobs per year and 63,48 billion reals of income for the population. The same report also acknowledges that most of the impacts will not be ‘permanent’ and depend on ‘stakeholders’ ability to benefit from the event’s opportunities and legacy’.
FIFA World Cup was held in Brazil for the first time in 1950. It was the 4th World Cup and the first after World War II. At a time where Europe was still recovering from the war, it was difficult for FIFA to find a country to host the event. The Cup was supposed to take place in 1949, but the event was postponed one year, so that European countries and national teams could reorganize themselves. Times were different and now Brazil’s faces harder and stricter challenges to meet the commitments signed in 2007 by former president Lula da Silva. Will Brazilian efforts be rewarded? That is yet to be answered.
Pelé: The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning