Sunday, July 7, 2013

Why I'm Not Going to the World Cup in 2014

The fires are out but the protests continue in Brazil

I stand in solidarity with Brazilians, like the young woman who made the video in the link (above). She refuses to support 2014 World Cup. Her video now has 3.3 million hits.

I say good riddance to FIFA and their fellow corrupt cronies, property developers and cement moguls who line their pockets with all the money that should have been spent on higher teacher salaries, better schools, more hospitals and health care centers for the elderly and poor.

Those projects are still in the promise stage. 

At least this was one of the many promises Dilma Rouseff made when she was running for president in 2010. The government had promised it would devote an equivalent amount spent on building new stadiums on adequate low-cost social housing. To date, all the stadiums are nearly built. Rouseff’s political PT party, the Workers Party, has forgotten those promises to improve the lives of its citizens.

The riots across Brazil was a reminder to her government of those early promises.

But why riot now?

It was the culmination of many causes, of which transportation clearly played a role.

As bad as driving is in Rio --in perpetual gridlock -- it is far better than having to take the public buses. Most drivers are poorly paid and rarely trained. The drivers are driving on very narrow streets that were built for carriages 500 years ago by the Portuguese. The roads in are finally wearing out but there's no space for new lanes.

I know this as a bicyclist in Rio for six months. I learned quickly that to survive on a bike, it is necessary to understand that there is no courtesy for bikes or pedestrians. Rarely does a cyclist find a bike lane. A cyclist has to compete with motorbikes, as well as cars and buses. 

Biking actually provides the best mobility in a city in love with its cars. For the infirm and elderly, the buses are the least popular option.

I rode the buses daily. They are old and breaking down under the crush of people and lack of maintenance. Several months ago a woman was raped on a bus and no one could stop it. In another incident a man came on the bus and fought with the driver, causing the driver to swerve and drive off a bridge killing several passengers.

As in the US, the elderly, students, the working class and the poorest comprise bus ridership. Then, on the heels of these incidents described above, Rio’s transportation bureaucrats decided to raise bus fares, an equivalent of ten cents. 

What does it cost for a police escort of FIFA officials from and to the airport?

During my stay in Rio I found that Brazilians are general are slow to burn, given the inconvenience of getting around the city. They are always getting hit with a new fare, a tax, a fee, and bolsa, a word covering a wide number of corrupt ways to get your money. Maybe the bus fare was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Being middle class is a slippery slope. People are beginning to wonder: why are the only people to suffer are those least able pay. They are witnessing the “divide”.


On one side are the prominent and on the other are the poor who live from day to day in places where hope had fled decades ago. 

In the middle is a perception that you could fall even further into the gaping void of the poor. Why would you want to be reminded of them sitting next to you on the bus. There is no air conditioning.


To fill in for the aging buses, mini cabs began appearing on the road this several years ago.They are unlicensed vehicles owned and operated by gangs or drug syndicates to launder money. They operate like taxis but are not approved or regulated by the city.


If you are stuck when a bus is not on schedule or is broken down, your “ride” is a mini cab and you share it in a dark confined space with others. The charges vary and have to be negotiated several times during a ride.


I wrote about the swindles in my Temporary Carioca blog about trying to get up the Corcavado by one of these gangster mini cabs. The price for bringing you down the mountain would increase once you were at the top.


Thousands of tourists are fleeced this way every day by these shady drivers. Until recently, commuters took their lives in their hands by commuting in them. When a female tourist was raped by people in a mini cab, stories began coming out that this had been going on for some time.


The city, state and federal authorities made more inquiries and studies. The only action to this point was that the mini cabs were banished from the streets. And still there is no alternative to the old buses.


Meanwhile, more new stadiums are being built, along with luxury condos and big hotels. Really, was this a good time to introduce a fare hike on the poorest?


Somewhere in Rio and Sao Palo, there is a tire burning, sending black smoke into the air. It is a reminder of a fire fight between a police invasion and trafikers. And it has become worse now that the UPP, once a peace keeping force that has morfed into an invasion force.


A couple of months ago in the North and Western Zones of Rio the favela residents began filming these invasions to show the public how they live.


Formerly, the trafickers would protect residents from the police, but now that more favelas are pacified, the lines are beginning to blur. 

In a recent invasion, the UPP used tear gas, pepper spray to disperse a crowd then shot into the crowd. From the video footage, there was no measured response to favela people protesting the invasion. The video showed a 10-year-old boy lying in his blood.


In another UPP action, Indians had been forced from their traditional homes in Rio to make way for a new condo development. The Indians made a make-shift shelter to house them in the old Maracana stadium. When the "pacification" force arrived the Indians protested peacefully, but were brutally beaten.

Was this a good time to have a Confederations Cup with blood still on the streets?

Part III: 


For the first time in Brazil’s history, the international soccer team will be on the wrong side of its people.


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