By Henrique Sanchez
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The World Cup is deepening the struggle for Brazil’s cities

This article is over 10 years, 1 months old
Henrique Sanchez says big business will be the real winner of the World Cup—while ordinary Brazilians are losing their homes
Issue 2402
A meeting in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, organised by the National Articulation of Popular Committees asks Who loses with mega-events?
A meeting in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, organised by the National Articulation of Popular Committees asks “Who loses with mega-events?” (Pic: Agência Brasil)

This year’s World Cup and the 2017 Olympics are at the centre of a battle to reshape Brazil’s cities.

Firstly this means the removal of families in poor working class neighbourhoods. A recent study estimated that 250,000 people have been thrown out of their homes.

The process of ethnic cleansing and gentrification—pushing many poor and working people to more distant areas—aims to deepen a reorganisation of cities already underway.

New areas have been allocated for real estate speculation and large planned business districts where market interests prevail.

The anger at being denied the right to the city fuelled huge protests against rising public transport costs last year.

When Brazil was chosen to host these events, politicians and football officials promised that no public money would be used to build stadiums. 

They said investments for the events would meet demands for public services, especially public transport.

But people quickly realised that hosting the World Cup was nothing more than big business, largely financed by public resources.

Emergency laws were approved that grant tax exemption to international football governing body, Fifa, and define exclusive sale and access areas for its sponsors. 

This chases out informal workers and merchants, and denies the basic constitutional right to come and go. 

The Fifa Local Organising Committee includes football officials who were involved in corruption scandals.

The World Cup also served as an excuse to privatise airports.


Major construction firms greatly benefited from building and renovating stadiums in 12 host cities—again financed with tax exemptions and state loans at preferential interest rates.

There have now been around 25 strikes of construction workers in World Cup stadiums demanding decent pay and conditions. 

Several strikes occurred spontaneously without the support of the unions. In some the bosses asked for police repression—and they got it.

The World Cup revealed to the world the reality faced by Brazilian workers, especially in the construction industry. 

As well as complaints of bullying bosses and disrespect of labour laws, eight workers died building stadiums after of a lack of safety measures. 

Fifa has been given more public resources amid pressure over unfinished stadiums.

Even a local governor in the ruling Workers’ Party (PT) complained that “accepting the conditions imposed by Fifa was a trap”.

But the federal government—which the PT has run since 2003—and state governments run by right-wing opposition parties have acted as agents for Fifa. 

There have been several demonstrations against the impacts of the football competition.

One of the most important movements in this struggle is the National Articulation of Popular Committees. 

This is a national coalition of activists against the World Cup’s social impacts. 

It has opposed emergency laws and defended housing, freedom of protest and the right to the city.

Actions and demonstrations are planned before and during the World Cup, including a national day of protest on 15 May.

With one month to go, the only certainty we have about the World Cup is that it will see much struggle in Brazil. 

And international solidarity can help the fight.

Henrique Sanchez is a socialist based in São Paulo

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