Brazil: FIFA social unrest time out

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Hard to say what ordinary Brazilians in difficult economic straits thought of FIFA President Joseph Blatter saying: “Where is all this social unrest [that everyone has been talking about]? I have to compliment the people of Brazil!”

Some heard Blatter’s ‘everything is good!’ statements earlier this month and reacted with their backsides and the ‘f’ word writ large outside the conference centre where he spoke.

There were massive streets protests in the run-up to the global football extravaganza in several of Brazil’s major cities — these were to demand better public services or better salaries — but threats of a heavy anti-World Cup impact didn’t prove true.

Blatter also praised the organisation of the event — given that building work was actually completed just in time. Brazilian officials played up the country’s passion for football and downplayed as ‘very small’ protests that did take place.

Some activists suggested that fear of the police played a role in keeping things quiet.

In fact, more paying customers showed up than hoped for: ten million users of Brazil’s 20 main airports; nearly 700,000 foreign tourists, of more than 200 nationalities went. That was 32 percent more than last year during the same period, and more than South Africa for the last World Cup. Hotels in Rio registered ‘full’.

Tourism bloomed, then, but some work accidents proved deadly; two men were killed when an overpass under construction collapsed, nearing its completion date limit. Plus, some people were moved out of their homes to allow building for the event.

Critics denounced the security clampdown, with 100,000 police and 50,000 soldiers mobilised to keep order throughout the country, at a cost in excess of 620 million euros, between the first and last days of the one-month-long Cup.

As it ended, though, as pictures taken on the last day show, the streets were heating up again.

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