Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Brazilian Bishops Issue “Red Card” Against World Cup Plans

An organization of Brazilian catholic bishops gave a “red card” to the preparations for the World Cup that will begin on June 12th.

According to a pamphlet issued by the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (known by the Portuguese acronym of CNBB), the group criticized the “inversion of priorities” in the spending of public funds to soccer’s main tournament instead of areas like “health care, education, basic sanitation, transportation and security”.  The CNBB also critiqued the Brazilian government for allowing the “misappropriation of sport” by large corporations and private entities that will likely benefit financially from the World Cup.    

“(The removal of) families and communities for the construction of stadiums is a violation of the right of property in popular neighborhoods and communities,” said part of the pamphlet that is printed in three languages and is expected to be widely distributed during the World Cup.

For the CNBB, several initiatives can be taken that represent a “winning goal” such as ensuring that the residents of poor neighborhoods and homeless have the right to stay in their localities.  In addition, the group urges the authorities not to criminalize “social movements” and respect the rights of people to participate in street demonstrations.

“As a Church, we commit ourselves to stand by players and fans…and be a prayerful presence throughout the World Cup,” according to the CNBB.

It was approximately one year ago this month that over a million people took to the streets to protest against the billions of dollars in public money being spent on the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.  Though the protests have largely died down since then, a resurgence of mass demonstrations has developed in recent weeks and is expected to last during the tournament.
“There are no health services in the region. We don’t have a basic doctor’s surgery or a hospital. They chose not to spend money on health or education, but on construction like this, making our housing problems worse,” said one protester at a rally last month.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff claimed that the government would “fully guarantee people's security” during the World Cup through the deployment of thousands of extra police and soldiers.  Rousseff, who is running for reelection, also warned that security forces would be closely supervised in order to prevent incidents of police brutality during last year’s demonstrations.  Nevertheless, Sao Paulo police have engaged in an “intense intelligence operation” against alleged protest leaders that has raised a few eyebrows:
(Head security official for Sao Paulo state Fernando) Grella said police have used video surveillance and internal records to identify the most violent protesters and, in some cases, have tapped their phones and monitored their social media use and e-mail traffic.
The objective, he said, is to identify cases of premeditated, organized violence that would constitute "criminal association" - a charge akin to conspiracy that is more typically used against organized crime groups here…

Esther Solano, a university professor who has studied the protests over the past year, said they are generally leaderless and loosely organized, making it difficult for police to identify potential troublemakers.
"What (police) are trying to do seems excessive," she said. "It shows you how much pressure police and politicians are under to avoid a big mess during the World Cup."
Video Source – euronews via YouTube

Online Sources –; Reuters; euronews; BBC News; The Latin Americanist

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