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WPGM Commentary: Brazil 2014 World Cup – Why The Protests Must Not Be Forgotten Now

It’s easy to assume that with World Cup fever, the citizens of Brazil will enjoy the fruits of tourism, and other economic boosts to the country. However the very cities that the games are being held in, have seen several protests being held against FIFA and the Brazilian government.

Healthcare, education, and lack of housing are issues that have been neglected in favour of spending in excess of $3.6 billion on stadiums for the World Cup, most notably the glamorous $300 million stadium in the city of Manaus, located in Amazonas. To put it in context, Amazonas is the fourth-poorest of Brazil’s 26 states. According to statistics from the World Bank, a quarter of the inhabitants live in extreme poverty. It is with this information that one can understand the non-stop protests against the World Cup.

Protests have taken place every day since the World Cup started, with ten cities said to have been holding demonstrations on the opening day, bolstered once again by the power of social networking. Protests are not new to Brazil; in this past year there have been numerous protests to complain about the poor public services and corruption in the government. The protests against the World Cup are reasonable as the money could have gone to more serious matters of concern for the country, and even though there are economic benefits coming in now, the people employed specifically for the games will no longer hold employment after it finishes, and the stadiums will only remain as relics taking up much needed space.

Protesters have been attacked consistently even if they have been protesting peacefully. There are numerous reports of rubber bullets being used, as well as tear gas. In another World Cup City Porto Alegre, police fired tear gas and stun grenades at demonstrators protesting against FIFA, even though the majority of protests have been non-violent. There were also confirmed reports that police used live bullets during a confrontation with protesters during the Argentina v Bosnia-Herzegovina match, thankfully none were killed in this brutal attack. Amnesty International have accused the Brazilian police of excess force.

June 20 has been the most damaging of protests as groups of masked men began to set fires in the streets and shatter bank windows. This was reportedly done by the group known as “Black Blocs”, who are a hard-core element of the demonstrators and whose troublesome actions are recognized by Brazilians. Brazil is not the only country to have to deal with massive protests and excess force from police in the lead up to and during World Cup games. South Africa also went through this struggle four years ago when they hosted the World Cup in 2010, protesting and demonstrating against a lack of housing for the township dwellers.

It seems that there is a pattern that is beginning to develop when World Cup games come to a developing nation, whether it is Brazil, South Africa or anywhere else in the world. When the disenfranchised and neglected in society are pushed away even further by corporate events designed to only make the rich richer, they will rise up and they will fight to get their voices heard in protest, demonstration or any other means. Tensions have built to an all-time high and are being released in violent and non-violent manners.

With the Olympics set to come to Rio for 2016, that only leaves two years of potential for change from those in power in Brazil. It is highly unlikely that all the social issues will be resolved, but there is hope that the major ones can be tackled one step at a time. If not, the protests will continue from Brazilians and the disenfranchised and neglected will only grow in number as more livelihoods are damaged and uncared for.

Words by Halimat Shode // Edited by Ayo Adepoju

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