Protests have returned to the streets of Brazil with groups claiming the marches as the first action in 2014 of a movement called “Operation Stop the World Cup.”
Reports suggest up to 2500 people took part in the protests against the cost of staging both the World Cup and Olympic Games. Banks and shops were damaged in Sao Paulo as violence threatened to overshadow the actions while a police vehicle and car were set alight. Authorities cancelled some of festivities planned for the city’s 460th anniversary.
The Anonymous Rio group planned a protest in front of the Copacabana Palace hotel in Rio de Janeiro while also claiming on their Facebook page of over 176,000 followers that up to 100 people had been arrested in Sao Paulo.
The same group posted a picture calling the protests the first act in 2014 of “Operation Stop the World Cup.” Protesters marched through central Sao Paulo chanting: “There will be no cup” and “FIFA Go Home.”
Millions took part in demonstrations during last summer’s Confederation Cup prompting Brazilian communities abroad to stage similar events. Ireland’s sizable Brazilian population took to Dublin’s O’Connell Street in solidarity with their countrymen. The capital’s main thoroughfare saw participants display banners reading “Sorry for the inconvenience. We are building a new Brazil.”
The rocketing price of hosting the World Cup has contributed to a wave of public anger against the rising cost of living, and accusations of political corruption. As the organising committee struggle to finish stadia in time, more public money has been allocated to make sure arenas in Sao Paulo and Curitiba are completed.
Last year FIFA were attacked by Brazil’s legendary striker Romario, now a congressman:
“Brazil needs to stop this business of becoming a slave of FIFA…The sovereignty of the country must be respected,” he tweeted.
South American football correspondent Tim Vickery told BBC World Service: “Brazilian society was explicitly told in 2007 that all of the money spent on stadiums would be private money.”
“It hasn’t worked out that way at all. More than 90% of the money being spent on football stadiums is public money.”
Brazil is a country with startling gaps between the rich and the poor where high prices put basic luxuries out of reach for the millions below the poverty line. The increase in transport fares last summer sparked massive demonstrations in Sao Paulo that spread around the country. The authorities ultimately reversed the charge but public anger has not been quelled.
There have been large scale public protests against the cost of hosting the World Cup but also against the destruction caused to facilitate the construction of stadia.
The proposed removal of Favelas to make way for roadway incensed Brazilians while the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro was the scene of repeated demonstrations against the demolition of a native Indian museum on the site.
Brazil’s politicians have also been accused of corruption and football has not been immune. In April 2013, former FIFA president Joao Havelange resigned as honorary president after a report ruled he had taken bribes.
Current president Sepp Blatter has been scathing of Brazil’s preparations for this summer’s tournament but has been largely dismissive of the protests merely acknowledging that he expects more in the run up to the finals.