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Favelas and the World Cup

world cup
June 12, 2014 marks one of the most exhilarating international competitions that spreads to millions of homes across the world. This year, the FIFA World Cup is taking place in Brazil. As a country that lives and breathes soccer, it makes a fitting choice. However, as the tournament draws nearer, more pressure and focus is being put on Brazil’s ability to step up to expectations.

In the midst of excited anticipation, Brazil has been faced with many threatening obstacles including strikes by police as well as government workers, causing fear that Brazil may not be ready in time. On the other side of the glorious soccer stadiums that will be filled with thousands of international visitors, lies the sprawling hills of favelas outside of Rio de Janeiro.

A favela is the Portuguese term for slum, and just outside of the bustling city center lies miles of low socioeconomic life, a juxtaposed sight to the nearby city. The contrast of life is extreme. As charter jets fly in holding national teams from participating countries, drug gangs still rule the favelas, not far from where foreign tourists will be staying.

Brazil has been making efforts to keep the areas under a state of control, implementing pacification programs. This effort may come too little too late, with CNN acknowledging “Rio’s favelas were neglected by authorities, considered no-go zones even by police” for many years, so the actions that began in 2008 when Brazil was announced host for the World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics were necessary long before action was taken.

Since the beginning of the pacification program, only 176 of about 600 favelas are monitored with any consistency, leaving much unknown to neighboring cities and tourists. While the program has helped decrease the number of violent crimes and murders in Brazil since 2008, 6,000 people are killed a year, turning Brazil into basically an active war zone.

The city of Rio lacks a sense of calm as the government scurries about trying to finish stadiums on time while maintaining a professional international appearance. As the World Cup begins, tourists swarm into the country and will send the government into high alert to maintain safety for such a high number of visitors who may be lacking understanding the severity of the situations in the favelas.

Due to the around the clock media focus on the World Cup, the reports are sure to fly in should anything go awry. The world is watching Brazil as it stands on unstable footing.

— Elena Lopez

Sources: Truth-Out, CNN, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, Real Truth
Photo: For the love of the beautiful game