Brazil is hosting the World Cup next year, as well as the Olympics in 2016--which means that the state is invested in evicting residents to make room for tourists, and divesting from education, transportation, and healthcare. And that means social activists, and students especially, are taking to the streets to demonstrate in the biggest protests the nation has seen in two decades.
The protests originally coincided with anticipated bus fare hikes. But although nearly a dozen cities have lowered their fares, up to a quarter-of-a-million people still took the streets last night. The protests, which have been met with a sometimes-violent response from police, pose a serious image problem for socialist president Dilma Rousseff, who's said she's proud of the protests.
Natalia Viana directs the Agencia Pública investigative journalism center, based in São Paulo, and has been digging into eviction and social safety net stories for years. In this Spanish language interview, Viana explains that Brazil has dropped nearly one billion dollars in Rio de Janeiro's privately owned Maracaná Stadium alone. She adds that nearly 200,000 people stand to lose their homes because of new roads and structures being erected for the twin grand scale sports events. Those who are taking to the streets are also limited by new regulations. They maintain a one-and-a-mile protest exclusion zone--which is unconstitutional in a nation that supposedly values expression.
A popular slogan (among many) for protestors has become, "Call me [the World] Cup, and Invest in Me," and some politicians are already listening. Porto Alegre's mayor just announced that he will no longer push to complete construction on any World Cup-related projects in his city. It's likely that other officials may soon follow--but no word yet on what that means for accommodating first world visitors who are used first world accommodations.
For lots of people in the US, Brazil remains a racial paradise, where people seem to get along despite a violent history of colonization and enslavement--and many World Cup fans are eager to visit next year. Do Brazil's protests make you think about your role as a spectator in South America? Let us know in the comments!