Protests Over Cost Of World Cup Expected In 50 Brazilian Cities

CREDIT: Associated Press/ Hassan Ammar

A Brazilian boy during a World Cup protest in Rio's Jacarezinho favela earlier this week. Brazilians are holding a day of action against the Cup on Thursday.

Less than a month before the World Cup begins, thousands of activists are expected to take to the streets of Brazilian cities throughout the day Thursday to protest against the World Cup and draw attention to issues like housing, education, and health care that they say the Brazilian government is not doing enough to address.

In Sao Paulo, the protests began early Thursday morning, and according to Folha, a Sao Paulo newspaper, demonstrations are expected to take place in as many as 50 Brazilian cities. Bloomberg reported that they would occur in 10 of the 12 cities that will host World Cup matches in June and July. While many of the protesters and staged actions have different ultimate goals, they have a “critical point in common,” according to Folha: the amount of money the government has spent to bring the World Cup to Brazil.

Protests are not a rare occurrence in Brazil, but as the World Cup approaches, activists have used the amount of money Brazil has spent on the tournament to draw attention to issues they say should be addressed alongside the tournament. The government, protesters say, should devote resources to bringing schools, hospitals, and infrastructure up to the lavish standards FIFA has demanded of the country’s World Cup venues. Brazil had originally planned to spend little public money on stadiums while investing heavily in long-term infrastructure projects; instead, the cost of stadiums has risen by billions of dollars and many of the other projects have been delayed or canceled altogether.

In many cities, the protests will focus directly on the cost of the World Cup, according to Folha’s map of the planned demonstrations. In others, including Sao Paulo, Curitiba, Salvador, and the capital city of Brasilia, the protests involve actions against the World Cup itself, but those cities are also home to protests from homeless organizations seeking to draw attention to rising housing costs that are unaffordable for many of Brazil’s low-income and homeless workers. In Manaus, workers marched outside the Arena da Amazonia, which will host World Cup matches, for improvements in social assistance, and workers have marched in cities like Belo Horizonte and others this morning too. Many of the protests will not begin until later in the day, and others are planned for Friday and the weekend.

The protests are expected to be significantly smaller than the large demonstrations that took place last summer.

The largest protests began this morning in Sao Paulo, where demonstrators with Brazil’s Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) are protesting rising housing costs and other issues facing low-income and homeless workers in the country. The MTST has for more than a decade protested Brazil’s deficit of affordable housing for low-income workers by squatting in abandoned buildings and directly confronting the government, and one MTST member told Globo News that there were an estimated 6,000 protesters affiliated with the movement in Sao Paulo this morning. Protesters shut down main roads across the city, and intended to continue doing so throughout the morning.

“Let’s close in front of the stadium, we will block everything,” Guilherme Boulos, the MTST member, told Globo News (according to a translation). “The idea is to draw more attention to [our] claims.”

Housing issues are one of the most pressing facing many Brazilians, and the World Cup has highlighted many of those problems. The Associated Press reported last week that more than 5,000 homeless members of the MTST were squatting illegally near the Arena Itaquerao, the Sao Paulo stadium that will host the opening match of the World Cup on June 12, to protest rising rent costs across the city that left them without housing options.

You can see more photos of the homeless workers’ protests in Sao Paulo here.