While the world looks at Brazil in excitement for the FIFA World Cup, national dissatisfaction persists among many of its citizens. People from all walks of life are taking part in demonstrations, strikes and riots to have their voices heard.
The protesters had several specific issues they want dealt with but were able to agree that the common factor amongst their concerns was rooted in the economics of hosting the tournament. Many believe Brazil should not be hosting the World Cup when its economy is too weak to uphold the country’s needs.
Citizens’ discontent regarding the decision to host was made clear at the Confederations Cup (a World Cup “dress rehearsal”) in 2013, at which over a million people protested in dozens of Brazilian cities to demand better public services.
Since then, protests have increased in number and severity, with many being organized by unions, leftist parties and activist groups. In the weeks leading up to the opening games, police, teachers, bus drivers and bank security guards have gone on strike due to World Cup related issues.
On May 26, protesters surrounded the World Cup squad’s hotel and later the squad’s bus when en route to a training camp. The protesters chanted things like “There will be no World Cup, there will be a strike” and placed stickers on the team’s bus.
On May 27, about 1,500 people were part of a demonstration that blocked one of the main roads near the National Stadium. Once the police intervened, the streets were filled with a variety of people, including cops on horseback, indigenous leaders with bows and arrows and dissatisfied teachers. A popular chant was “Who is the cup for? Not us! I don’t want the Cup, I want money for health and education.”
Groups of educators have been on strike since May 12, believing that the $11 million budget for the month-long tournament should be allotted to more worthy causes, such as education for the children or better working conditions and pay raises for the teachers.
Recently, the indigenous population of Brazil has decided to use the protests to bring light to their problems. Around 100 ethnic groups joined in the demonstrations to fight for the protection of the Amazon Rainforest. They have accused President Dilma Rousseff’s government of stalling the demarcation of their ancestral lands in order to pursue large-scale farming.
The protests are not expected to let up any time soon, so the government is increasing the police force and security, with 157,000 soldiers and police dedicated to maintaining order during the tournament. The added security has caused additional economic controversy, with the civilian police force requesting an 80 percent pay raise during the World Cup.
Brazilian soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo expressed that citizens should not blame the country’s problems on the World Cup when they existed beforehand:
“This is what people should understand: it’s down to governments. The governments they have elected. It’s nothing to do with football or the World Cup.”
A slightly different angle is expressed by Eric Cantona, former soccer player, stating that he believes the protests will continue despite FIFA executive committee vice president Michel Plantini’s requests, but that “people just need to be heard, and they will be heard thanks to the World Cup.”
– Courtney Prentice