In the past year, massive protests have rocked several of Brazil’s major cities, calling for less corruption and more investment in public services. On Tuesday, as teams from around the world descended on cities around the country for the World Cup, Pew Research published a poll revealing the national mood in Brazil remains grim ahead of the $11 billion sporting event that many Brazilians claim comes at the expense of more pressing needs.
Since June 2013, when protests began, the number of Brazilians who are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country has climbed 17 percent, up to 72 percent of the population. Public opinion about the health of Brazil’s economy has changed even more drastically. In 2013, two-thirds of the population believed the country was in good shape economically. Now, those figures are reversed. Two-thirds of Brazilians say the economy is in bad shape.
A majority of the population — 61 percent — is against hosting the World Cup, as they believe it detracts from spending on crucial social services like schools and healthcare. Rising prices, Brazil’s significant rich poor gap, and lack of employment were all described as very big problems. A much smaller 34 percent believe the Cup will create jobs that will boost the economy. Disapproval of president Dilma Rousseff’s handling of preparation for the Cup stands at a high 67 percent. However, discontent over the government’s performance on many issues has not boosted support for candidates running against Rousseff in the upcoming October election.
The police were especially hard hit in the recent poll, with just 33 percent of Brazilians reporting that the police have a good influence on the country, down from 53 percent in 2010. Protests are met with a harsh response from police in Brazil, where the structure of the police force is a hold over from the country’s authoritarian past. The police are divided into a civil division, in charge of investigating crimes, and a military division, in charge of clearing the streets. Every year, the police are responsible for causing
As a result of shifting resources towards building new stadiums, the government has virtually stopped all work on much needed improvements to public works. Earlier this week, president Rousseff referred to the delays as “the cost of our democracy.” However, many Brazilians see the current distribution of resources as anything but democratic. Frustration is building over Rousseff’s empty promises that the cup would usher in an economic boom, which so far has failed to materialize. Of the $11.3 billion invested in preparation for the upcoming games, a third has gone to stadiums while promised public infrastructure projects have been scrapped, such as designs for a bullet train between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
Last year’s demonstrations against the World Cup saw over one million protesters take to the streets. While the past week’s protests have remained small by comparison, Sao Palo public transit workers’ move to go on strike Thursday is paralyzing the mega-city of 20 million just days ahead of the soccer matches that are expected to draw hundreds of thousands of fans. With a 125 mile traffic jam choking Sao Palo’s main highway and one third of the subway system down, police unleashed tear gas on protesters blocking access to transit stations on Friday. So far, FIFA has yet to comment on what it plans to do about the massive strike as the event prepares to kick-off.
Will Freeman is an intern with Think Progress.