Protests in Brazil Probably Won't Stop the World Cup

PHOTO: In a protest staged in the city of Fortaleza, On June 19, 2013, a man held a poster which said, "we don´t need a World Cup."

Day by day, the situation in Brazil seems to be rapidly deteriorating.

On Monday, nearly 200,000 Brazilians took to the streets of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, and Brasilia to protest rises in public transportation prices, corruption, police brutality, and government spending on events such as the World Cup and the Confederations Cup. The event marked the biggest protests the country has seen in more than two decades, and it prompted conciliatory remarks from the Brazilian government.

"The direct message from the streets is for more citizenship, better schools, better hospitals, better health, for direct participation," President Dilma Roussef said during a televised address. "My government is trying and committed to social transformation."

Most protesters disagree with the president's message, and they cite the amount of money spent on the World Cup Stadiums ($3.68 billion; almost three times the projected costs) as a clear example of misplaced priorities. Groups such as V de Vinagre and #ChangeBrazil have made that clear through social media, where they are now urging foreigners not to come to the World Cup.

Some demonstrators are even hoping that the current strife will lead to the cancellation of next year's event.

"This will have a direct impact on our cost of living," a protester in Fortaleza, the site of Wednesday's Brazil-Mexico match, told the BBC. "All this makes me want to mobilize and, why not, do something that leads to the cancellation of the event."

Though a cancellation is highly unlikely, there is somewhat of a precedent for such a debacle.

In 1974, FIFA accepted Colombia's bid to host the 1986 World Cup. Eight years later, in 1982, the Colombian government withdrew from hosting the World Cup. Mexico eventually became the host, and, Colombia lost the chance to witness one of soccer's greatest events.

Now, given Brazil's worsening economic, social, and political situation, could Roussef's government be forced to cancel the event like Colombia did more than thirty years ago?

The answer is a resounding no, according to analysts.

"Brazil may not be in a comfortable economic position, but they are already too committed. Most of the public works are near completion," said Miguel Urrutia, a renowned Colombian economics professor, who served as Minister of Mines and Energy in 1977.

Colombia, meanwhile, never quite actually started refurbishing the stadiums and doing all the work that FIFA asked. For years after the country won the right to host the World Cup, politicians and businessmen debated whether it made sense to spend millions of dollars on a twenty-day event with unknown financial dividends.

By 1980, FIFA sent a commission that traveled throughout the country's stadiums and imposed a set of nearly unfulfillable conditions, which included massive stadium and infrastructure renovations. The government then tried to pass a law through Congress to collect the necessary funds, but the motion failed in the last debate. In response, some of Colombia's richest men established a private organization to help collect the necessary resources.

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