10 Reasons I Won’t Watch the World Cup
“Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there.” — Tom Joad in “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck.
It’s the funnest sporting event ever, screaming at the TV, siding with my favorite countries, and in awe of the endurance and strategy of pro football players. However, the reports of police violence coming from Brazil pose a crisis of conscience: thousands of people driven from their homes, the protesters violently attacked by police, and the assassinations of people fighting for civil rights. Here are 10 reasons why I won’t watch the World Cup.
Sources: the guardian.com, securitymagazine.com, thepositive.com, fairobserver.com, america.aljazeera.com, bloomberg,com, fpif.org, revolution-news.com, vice.com, amnesty.org.uk, deathandtaxesmag.com, nytimes.com
Starting in 2008, Brazilian military “pacification” forces began raiding favelas — slum towns in many of Brazil’s largest cities. The goal was to sweep away the drug lords who had been in charge there and left virtually unbothered for decades. The favelas are epicenters of drug trafficking and violence, but it wasn’t until the announcement that Brazil had landed the FIFA 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics that the raids began in earnest. Armored vehicles were introduced for the first time in clashes between the military and drug gangs. On Nov. 24, 2010, a 14-year-old girl was killed in Rio de Janeiro after being hit by a bullet in the crossfire. Didn’t Sao Paolo, Rio, and other cities need these kinds of sweeps before to ensure the safety of millions, or was it just image refurbishing?
The Price of Being Clean
To beautify the cities in a crunched time period, cities like Rio implemented hiked-up fines for those who work against this urban cleanup: $50 for not cleaning up after a pet, almost $1700 for “fly-tipping” (dumping in areas where you’re not allowed), and credit/loan ramifications via bad-name branding have also been threatened. It’s one thing to be eco-friendly, throwing a can on the ground could cost a fifth of your monthly salary on minimum wage (about $340 a month)! Are these measures for the sake of the residents, or for the benefit of wealthy sports fans passing through.
The Public Treasury
Twelve Brazilian cities have built massive stadiums, and the country poured billions of dollars into enhancing airports and other transportation infrastructure. Last summer, when the construction budget had exceeded its limit times three, heavy criticism surfaced. The additional money was taken from the public treasury despite promises the sports minister initially made that no tax dollars would go into stadium construction. Read this AlJazeera America article to see how that worked out in London and South Africa.
The Effects on the Middle Class
Over the last decade, Brazil’s economy has grown, propelling more than 40 million previously poverty-stricken citizens into middle-class status. These same citizens are now the most vocal detractors of the misappropriation of funds in the last few years. Thousands still struggle to make ends meet every month, including this family featured in the Los Angeles Times. Inflation without balancing income is a huge problem. Sao Paolo bus drivers tossed their keys away during a strike in May that caused a massive traffic jam. Raising the poor into a disproportionate middle class with no sign of a stable future is another reason why a month of soccer will not opiate the masses.
Some of the poorest Brazilians suffered the most as a result of FIFA coming to town through evictions and home demolitions that displaced thousands of families, often without more than a day’s notice. Rio’s secretary of housing said more than 20,000 people have been relocated since 2009. The slums of Sao Paolo, Rio, Belo Horizonte, and other cities where games are being held have been ripped apart and communities that were built over hundreds of years, separated. City laws claim to protect victims of forced evictions by relocating them close to their former homes, but most have reportedly been moved away to the outskirts of cities. Compensation packages of around $22,000 for the displaced don’t go far in the country’s skyrocketing cost of real estate and living. Articulação Nacional Da Copa Ancop has a visual journey of the evictions here on Youtube.
Brazilian police have killed an average of five people every day; in 2012 Sao Paolo, their slayings of citizens account for 20 percent of the homicide rate according to the New York Times. The special forces recruited by the Brazilian government to handle protests and uprisings during the FIFA World Cup will be the largest ever for a sporting event in history, and they’re not the usual police officers or soldiers — they have been trained by Blackwater (or Academi), according to Revolution News. Blackwater is a U.S. government-funded private security service that got major media coverage when some of its forces shot and killed 14 innocent Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007 (Read about it in The Guardian here). Blackwater is notorious for conditioning security forces to respond with brutal tactics. “If the government requested this type of training, it means they already have a structured plan of repression,” said Paul Hamus, a journalist who covered Academi training centers in the U.S., according to Revolution News.
Violent Response to Protesters
Flash grenades, teargas, rubber bullets, live bullets…and 837 civilian injuries in 2013 alone have been reported from forceful police suppression. Nearly 2,600 people including journalists, protesters, and bystanders were arrested without proper charges being filed. A recent study showed that 64 percent of police and military forces admitted to being ill-prepared with how to deal with protesters. Many people believe Brazil is treating the democratic form of nonviolent resistance on the street with tactics used to suppress civilians in a dictatorship. Protests across the country are taking place, and are expected to continue while the World Cup is under way.
The “Anti-Terror” Laws
Brazil did away with anti-terrorism laws in the ’80s, meaning to erase the painful history of dictatorship which took violent advantage of such legislation. Congress rushed through Bill 449, which would sentence those responsible for inciting disorder to 15-to-30 years in prison. This means inalienable rights such as peaceful protest would be equated with terrorism. Amnesty International speaks out against the bill here.
Homicides by Police
The image above is the less graphic half of a very disturbing photo that circulated on Facebook in February showing what was allegedly the bodies of six young favela boys, ages 10 to 16, allegedly killed by the military police during a raid to send a message to local drug lords. Human Rights Watch has been on Brazil’s case for years now, saying law enforcement is trigger-happy. Read its 2014 report on police conduct here. The average number of people killed by police in Brazil is five a day. Enough said.
The Parking Lot for the Maracanã Stadium…
…could have paid for 200 schools. Its construction on a razed favella will not benefit poor children lacking in access to education. Enough said, again. #Sigh.
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