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Brazil and the World Cup: Three Things to Know

Speaker: Julia E. Sweig, Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director for Latin America Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
June 5, 2014

Protests over government service mismanagement, corruption, massive spending projects and a lack of transparency may disrupt Brazil as the nation prepares to host the 2014 World Cup. Julia Sweig, CFR's senior fellow and director of the Latin American Studies program, highlights three things to know about the quadrennial soccer tournament's effect on the country's economy and politics.

  • Grievances over Mismanagement and Corruption: Demand for adequate government services, including transportation, health and education, is coming from "a broad spectrum of society," says Sweig. Corruption and the unmet demand for decent services have gone against expectations from the emerging middle class, students and professionals. Widespread protests, which began after a bus fare increase in São Paulo, reflect Brazilian unhappiness "in this huge and heterogeneous country," explains Sweig.
  • Protests May be Growing: Stadium construction delays, overspending, and the death of workers on-site have led to a united Brazilian effort against the Cup, which has already cost the government "$12 billion of public funds," says Sweig. In a country that is no stranger to social unrest, teachers on strike and "periodic strikes of garbage and transportation workers are the new normal in a country where trade unions were a major player in Brazil's democratic transition," she says.
  • Presidential Image at Risk: The World Cup will play a role in President Dilma Rousseff's potential re-election, explains Sweig. Rousseff's popularity plunged following the first wave of protests last summer, and its restoration "will depend on a successful World Cup -- and possible win by the Brazilian team," she says. Such results could inspire new confidence for Rousseff in Brazil.

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