Usually when you have this many people gathered on the street at night in Rio, there are floats and people wearing large, colorful feathers not found in nature. Where are the floats? Well, there was a parade on Sunday, but it was less Carnival and more a Carnival of the Disaffected: a mass gathering of the pissed off. This was the scene (below) in downtown Rio de Janiero as thousands took to the streets to protest, well, many things.
When you boil it down it pretty much amounts to this: With Brazilians being hammered by high taxes, increasing transportation costs, violent street crime and sub-par hospitals and schools, why is the government spending billions on sports? It seems on the surface to be a very good question — and as many as 200,000 people took to the streets on Sunday and Monday in 11 cities to say they are not amused.
The Confederations Cup began on Saturday, and that seems to have touched off the protests — which have been mostly peaceful so far. But with that, plus construction on facilities for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics and preparation for the papal visit next month, the Brazilian government has shelled out billions — an estimated $13 billion on the World Cup alone — to put its best foot forward on the world stage. But what about the local stage?
— AKilluminati (@An0nkn0wledge) June 19, 2013
— Patricia G. Ferreira (@Pat_Galvao) June 17, 2013
Even with these amazing photos above, the one below is likely to be the most lasting image of the protests.
— Digg (@digg) June 18, 2013
The main points of the protests are summarized in this short video by Brazilian filmmaker Carla Dauden, entitled “No, I’m not going to the World Cup.” It has more than 500,000 views in its first 24 hours.
“Now tell me, in a country where illiteracy can reach 21 percent, a country that ranks 85th in the human development index, a country where 13 million people are underfed every day, and many, many others die every day due to lack of medical treatment, does that country need more stadiums?”
Dauden makes the point that most of the money coming into Brazil from the World Cup goes straight to FIFA, or to Brazilian officials and contractors who already have money. “Yeah, the guy selling ice cream on the beach may do well, that week. But is this really going to change his life?”
The issue is probably not as clear-cut as that. But when Brazilian officials say that spending on the World Cup and the Olympics will be the incentive that Brazil needs to improve life for its people, detractors are right to ask, why should a government need an incentive to help improve people’s lives? If they can find ways to build stadiums, then why can’t they find a way to build hospitals and schools?