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Bristolatino’s Sport editor Freddy Hare discusses the impact of the 2014 World Cup: is its ability to benefit Brazil’s population being grabbed or simply squandered?

Protests in Brazil Against Transport Fares

The stage was set. It was supposed to be a stroll in the park, a formality. With a brand new 200,000-seater stadium built, an expectant home fan-base and only a draw needed in the final game, the Jules Rimet trophy of 1950 may as well have had Brazil’s name already engraved on it before the match against Uruguay. Alas, Uruguay stunned the capacity Maracana stadium in what has been dubbed the Maracanaço, with a 2-1 victory. Most of the team were never forgiven and the upcoming World Cup is seen by many as a chance of redemption. The Maracana has been rebuilt, the team is looking strong at the Confederations Cup, and in Neymar, the seleção have a player with huge potential who seems to be living up to his ‘wonderkid’ tag.

However, as global news channels broadcast images of the “20-cent revolution” which is taking place across Brazil, from Sao Paulo to Recife and from Rio de Janeiro to Belem, a different, far more serious cause for concern has arisen. There is growing resentment that the investments being made into stadiums and infrastructure for the World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games are not only being badly managed but are also being diverted from health and education. Corruption also remains a serious problem within government and it is thus the tax payer and the population as a whole that is left to foot the bill.

The Maracana was 50% over budget (and may yet still need to be readjusted for the Olympics), and if the rest of the investments are as badly calculated, even victory in 2014 won’t appease those who are suffering most. The Brazilians that I have contacted think that the World Cup will have a beneficial effect on the economy and on the country as a whole, but these are people who tend to be football-mad and/or comfortably off. They will be the ones able to take advantage of the new infrastructure and many of the jobs created. It is the millions that live in the favelas who are being left behind and forgotten by Dilma Rousseff’s labour government; it is the poor who are hit hardest by inflation, and it is these people that are finally making their voices heard.

It says a lot about Brazilian culture that it has taken so long for people to protest. Inherently laid back, it takes a lot to anger a Brazilian, yet the 20 cent rise in bus fares in São Paulo was the last straw. The government is finally being held accountable for its actions and mismanagement. Rousseff claims to be ‘proud’ of those protesting, but her government needs to reassess their priorities. Jobs must be created and inflation tackled, obviously a task which is easier said than done. But that doesn’t mean that it is an impossible target.

Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, many will question the reasoning behind Brazil taking on such a task, but with the right policies and a shake-up of government, the economic and social impacts of 2014 and 2016 could still benefit even the country’s poorest. Rousseff must stop thinking about winning the next election by talking about the future and promising to turn things around. She needs to act, act now and act in the interests of the Brazilian population. The next 3 years offer Brazil (eternally pinned as the country of the future) an enormous opportunity to announce itself to the global stage. However, at the moment it seems that this opportunity is being squandered.

Click on the following link to hear a Brazilian’s online protest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZApBgNQgKPU

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