Letter from a reader:

“NÃO VAI TER COPA!—We Will Have No Cup!”
World Cup Protests Rock Brazil

June 12, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Editors’ note: The 2014 World Cup—the international soccer (or football, as it’s known in most parts of the world) competition held every four years in a different country—began on June 12 in Brazil. The World Cup is one of the world’s most widely watched sports events, and for four weeks hundreds of millions of people across the globe will be closely following the games. As in the past, this World Cup is not only about sports competition but also involves big political and societal issues. The following is a letter from a reader we recently received.


“Rubber bullets, drones and FBI-trained riot police. Welcome to Brazil’s 2014 World Cup.”

—from May 13 CNN news report

With the World Cup in Brazil starting on June 12, people have been taking to the streets in what looks to be a month of large and militant protests against the World Cup, the Brazilian government, and FIFA (Féderation Internationale de Football Association, the world’s soccer governing body).

Protests against the World Cup have been rocking the country for the past year. Last summer, enormous protests took place all over Brazil where over a million people took to the streets on a day that coincided with FIFA’s Confederation Cup1 that was taking place in Brazil. Over 100,000 people protested in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, while thousands took part in protests in about a hundred cities and towns across the country.

The battle cry of millions in Brazil is “NÃO VAI TER COPA!”—or “(We) WILL HAVE NO CUP!”

Since last summer, protests have continued leading up to the opening of the World Cup this week. The main character of these protests has been the militancy of the people, the police attacking the demonstrators, and the people defending themselves against the police. São Paulo, a city of 11.8 million, where the opening match between Brazil and Croatia will be played, has been the center of some of the largest protests this year. People took to the streets on January 25 in São Paulo, clashing with the police and setting a police car on fire as they protested the World Cup, waving flags, carrying banners and chanting, “There will be no Cup!” Over 100 were arrested that day.

On May 15 this year, large protests took place São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, where the World Cup finals will be played on July 13, and in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. Protesters in São Paulo burned tires, blocked roads, and hurled rocks at the police, who fired tear gas on the demonstrators. In Rio de Janeiro, police fired tear gas on the protestors and barricaded the streets. The people responded by burning the barricades. At the same time, teachers, civil servants and others were striking in different cities in Brazil.

Earlier this month, subway workers in São Paulo went on strike and held a massive protest of thousands. They were joined by the homeless workers movement, MTST (Movimento de los Trabalhadores Sem-Teto), and retired military police. Many carried signs, “FIFA Go Home!” The protest blocked streets and intersections, creating miles of grid-locked traffic. Cops fired tear gas at the protesters.

Police have brutalized protestors in these demonstrations, beating and injuring many, including journalists covering the protests.

People in Brazil from all sections of the people—youth, the poorest, workers, students, intellectuals, the middle class, and the native people—are determined to disrupt and to even try to stop the matches from taking place. They are angry and fighting mad over what is taking place in their country, in general, as well as in the name of The World Cup.

There are many conditions in the country and actions of the authorities that are fueling the anger of the people. Those who are the poorest and the most oppressed in Brazil are being kicked out of the favelas (shantytowns in the Brazilian cities) from the homes they have hand-built, and they are being relocated in order to make room for World Cup facilities in 12 cities and the facilities for the 2016 Summer Olympics that will be held in Rio de Janeiro. It’s estimated that over 1.5 million people will be relocated. Many are being relocated 25 miles away from their current homes with very little notice and no compensation.

In the most recent Real Sports on HBO, there was a report on the Brazilian protests and the high costs for holding the World Cup. A woman who lives in a Rio de Janeiro favela was interviewed. Below, you could see the Maracana Stadium, where the World Cup finals will be played, from the favela that sits high on a hill in Rio. The woman tells how she has never been in the stadium because she can’t afford it. She says, “We realize that the wealth we can see from here and the poverty that we experience every day is enormous.” Then we are told that right after the World Cup, she will be forced out of the home that she has lived in for 70 years so it can be demolished for Olympic construction.

This recent urban cleansing of the poorest sections of people has been greeted with anger and hostility, not only from the residents of the favelas but from the wider public, including large sections of the middle class.

The government has instituted a program against the poorest sections of the population where massive police brutality and police killings have become a fact of daily life for the people in Brazil. According to the Brazilian Forum on Public Security the police killed 1,890 people in 2012. In the first six months of 2013, 362 people were killed by the police in Rio de Janeiro and 165 in São Paulo.2 There is a massive campaign by the authorities to criminalize the youth in Brazil by arresting them and locking them up in the country’s dungeons.

The government predicts it will spend over $30 billion3 for the World Cup and the Olympics. On the other hand the people in the country face economic hardships. Due to the worst drought in Brazil’s history, food prices have been soaring. There have been huge increases in public transportation fares. Many of the protests against the World Cup have included demands that the government spend the money on education, health care, and housing, which are badly needed, instead of the World Cup and the Olympics.

The anger at the Brazilian government is extremely widespread and much of the focus of this anger is aimed at President Dilma Rousseff. When the Confederation Cup was held last year, she was roundly booed at the opening of the tournament. Support for the World Cup was at 79% in 2008, one year after it was awarded to Brazil. In a recent Pew Research Center report, “Brazilian Discontent Ahead of the World Cup,” released this month, 61% of the people in Brazil now say the World Cup is a bad thing and almost 50% of the people say that the protests are a good thing.

“I hope Brazil loses in the first round,” Maria de Lourdes, 39, a street vendor who participated in a recent anti-World Cup demonstration, told USA Today. She said the Brazilian team falling early would make locals lose their nationalistic goodwill toward the event. “Brazil, with all its problems, Rio with all its problems—many people still die from hunger while others are spending money on these games,” she said. (Forbes, “How the 2014 FIFA World Cup Became the Worst Publicity Stunt in History,” May 27, 2014)

So what you have is a very angry populace that has taken to the streets to try and stop the World Cup from happening. On the other side is the government that is amassing a tremendous military force to intimidate and to actually try to stop the people from raising their voices in protest. The World Cup is one of the largest sporting events in the world and millions and millions of people around the world will be watching it and their eyes will be on Brazil. The Brazilian government is going to do everything in its power to keep the people from interfering with their precious World Cup show.

It is estimated that Brazil will use 150,000 police and troops (with 57,000 being Brazilian military) and 2,600 private security firms to provide “security” for the World Cup. The federal government has prepared an “anti-riot force” of 10,000. Most of the weaponry at the disposal of the security forces will be of military grade.

In order to attempt to prevent what happened last summer, the U.S. FBI, who are experts in oppressing people and violating their rights, was called in to train Brazilian security forces. According to Christopher Gaffney, a visiting professor in the Graduate School of Architecture and Urbanism at the Universidade Federal Fluminense in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian government “operates under a military police system which takes the citizenry as potential combatant enemies.” I need to emphasize that for people to chew on for a while. The Brazilian government views its citizens as “potential combatant enemies!” (See “World Cup 2014: Can the FBI help stop Brazil’s World Cup protesters?”, CNN, by James Masters, May 13, 2014.)

Massive police and military presence has been occurring and will be ramped up to the max when the Cup begins. CNN reported that in April the authorities in Rio got the federal government to send over 2,500 military troops into the Complexo da Maré favela as an occupying army in order to keep the people under the jackboot of the government. (“Brazilian army occupies Rio shantytown ahead of World Cup,” CNN, by Shasta Darlinton, April 24, 2014)

The Brazilian government will occupy the sea, the land and the air in order to spy on and control the Brazilian people. CNN reports that the Brazilian government has purchased drones from Israel that “can fly at 30,000 feet while being able to see 70 miles away,” and “the skies will be patrolled by 48 aircraft, including helicopters and airplanes, while 20 ships and 60 smaller vessels such as speed boats will patrol the seas.”

It appears that from June 12-July 13, Brazil will look like a country that is mainly preparing for and going to war with its own people, while a soccer match may break out here and there.

(For a more complete picture of the demonstrations in Brazil last summer, the reasons for these demonstrations, who is involved in them, the role of the government, and how people should understand the illegitimacy of the government in this, see “Brazil: Huge protests and illusions of capitalist development” (August 29, 2013, Revolution newspaper/revcom.us). This article gives a very good analysis that will enable people to have a good understanding of the forces involved in this struggle and what people in this struggle and others need to learn from it.)


1. The FIFA Confederations Cup is an international association football tournament for national teams that is currently held every four years in the host country of the following year’s World Cup. The participants are the teams that won each of the six FIFA confederation championships, along with the FIFA World Cup holder and the host nation, to bring the number of teams up to eight. This is basically a rehearsal for the World Cup. [back]

2. See www.forumsseguranca.org.br [back]

3. The actual costs are projected to be much more. For instance, Qatar will be spending $65 billion for the World Cup they are hosting in 2022, and China spent $40 billion for the 2008 Summer Olympics. [back]

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