More than 5,000 homeless Brazilians are living illegally near the arena that will host the opening match of the World Cup in June because they can’t afford rent in the areas where they used to live, the Associated Press reported Thursday. The construction of new stadiums and other Cup-related infrastructure has caused spikes in real estate prices and rent costs, and as a result, many of the people near Sao Paulo’s Arena Itaquerao can no longer afford to live there:
“We are not against the World Cup,” insisted Rita de Cassia, a 35-year-old nurse who says her landlord doubled the rent on her one-bedroom house nearby, driving her family out of their home. “We are against how they are trying to belittle us. They are giving priority to soccer and forgetting about the families, about the Brazilian people.”
The mother of three says her cabinetmaker husband is unemployed and they are living off her $350 monthly salary, which she had used to pay about $110 a month in rent.
But their landlord notified them earlier this year that the rent on their home in the Itaquera neighborhood was being raised to $220.
Experts who talked to the AP weren’t whether the World Cup would have long-term effects on rent prices or even if it was to blame now, but even if it isn’t, the current situation facing these families and others is symbolic of the problems around Brazil’s World Cup. While the country rushes to finish stadiums to host the tournament, it has canceled or delayed many of the infrastructure projects that were supposed to capture long-term economic benefits of the Cup; meanwhile, protesters have complained since last summer that the country should devote as much attention to crumbling schools, hospitals, and other problems as it has to World Cup stadiums.
Brazil has also evicted thousands of families from the favela neighborhoods around the World Cup stadium in Rio de Janiero, and it plans to relocate thousands more before the city hosts the Summer Olympics in 2016.
Brazil’s national soccer federation announced its 23-member squad for the Cup to much fanfare Wednesday, and its yellow-clad national team is among the favorites to win the tournament once it kicks off in June. Hundreds of thousands of tourists will flood cities like Sao Paulo and Rio to watch their own countries participate in the world’s largest soccer tournament too. The back-to-back hosting of the World Cup and Olympics is expected to be a Brazilian triumph, a feat that will bring the country attention and note as it continues to ascend as one of the world’s largest economies. But those events should also bring attention to the plight of the people they have left — and will continue to leave — behind.