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Who the World Cup in Brazil is really for this year

When Maria Elza de Fatima learned the World Cup was coming to Brazil in 2014, she thought the good times were soon to return.

Once the owner of a busy clothing stall, the 59-year-old Sao Paulo resident had scraped around for work since her license expired and wasn't renewed by city authorities.

But now the World Cup was coming to her home town -- along with many thousands of fans, visitors and tourists -- opportunities would abound, wouldn't they? It hasn't quite turned out that way.

De Fatima may be one of the lucky ones who has been able to secure an official World Cup job but what she can do and where she can work is limited. Alongside roughly 600 others, she has been given permission to sell ice packs and soft drinks outside the Sao Paulo stadium. Only official FIFA partners are allowed to hock their wares here and within the arena. De Fatima is all too aware that many others haven't been so fortunate.

"This World Cup is not for the Brazilians," de Fatima replies when asked whether Sao Paulo has experienced the boon she expected. "It is for the foreigners and FIFA friends."

De Fatima isn't the only disillusioned Brazilian.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that 61% of respondents felt hosting the World Cup would be a bad thing for their country.

According to Marina Mattar of the Sao Paulo Popular Committee of the World Cup, an umbrella organization for disparate protest groups in the city, the tournament will bring a lot of money into Brazil, but mainly to a well-connected few.

 

"The World Cup is bringing benefits to Brazil but it's to the economic and political elites -- not to street vendors, not to small companies, entrepreneurs and not to workers in general," she said.

Key to this debate are the spiraling costs of building new stadia across the country to host matches during the World Cup.

 

Promotional literature released by the Brazilian government puts expenditure in terms of funds, loans and credit lines from the public purse for stadium projects at at $3.5 billion.

But a recent audit suggests the price has escalated to $4.2 billion.

 

"The stadiums are not being built for ordinary people because the price of the tickets is very high and many people will not be able to go watch football any more.

 

"Instead, the stadiums are in a way very good for big engineering companies to make money," Mattar said.

 

People have also been evicted from their homes to make way for projects relating to the World Cup and there has been the "pacification" of favelas, which has seen police forcibly occupy some of the poorer neighborhoods in the city, she added. Such concerns are far from exclusive to Sao Paulo.

All across Brazil, street protests have raged in the last year while popular committee groups have also sprung up in Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and beyond.

 

A multitude of grievances, not all directly related to the world Cup, have driven this discontent -- including rising transport prices, higher living costs, housing concerns and accusations of police brutality.

 

Fairness and equality are at the heart of these concerns.

While Brazil has grown rapidly since the turn of the century, creating a new middle class, inequality remains high and some fear the very poorest are being left behind.

 

According to the CIA World Factbook, Brazil ranks 17th out of 140 countries in terms of the highest levels of income disparity.

 

Protesters are asking why an emerging nation is spending billions on hosting a football tournament when that money could be better directed towards alleviating poverty.

"It is unacceptable to build a mega event that will provide high profits to FIFA ... while there are serious problems of social inequality in the country," said Jean Marcelo, an activist with the student protest group Domino Publico.

"The World Cup reaffirms an existing logic that rules the Brazilian government. It's a logic benefiting big businesses and a small elite who occupy the top of the social pyramid," he added.

 

Article by Eoghan Macguire and Sofia Fernandesm, CNN

 

 

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