Day one of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the world's biggest sporting event, has not been a good day for the people of Brazil. Police and protesters clashed today in São Paulo, just hours before the opening game — but the tension and political unrest have been simmering for a couple of months now.
Police fired tear gas and noise bombs to disperse more than 100 demonstrators who were angry about heavy government spending on the event, a spokesman for São Paulo's state military police said. The protesters were trying to block the key entrance that leads to the Corinthians arena, where the first official game of the World Cup was held. The demonstrators chanted "There won't be a Cup," the rallying cry of the protest movement against the more than $11 billion in government spending paid out for the tournament. Opponents say the money should have been used for education, health, housing, and transportation instead.
It is certain that one protester was arrested; and CNN reporters Shasta Darlington and Barbara Arvanitidis were a bit injured when hit by a police canister.
Since Brazil was chosen for the global soccer event, rents in São Paulo have soared, almost doubling for the low-income people who make a minimum wage which averages out to $360 a month. Less than three miles from the World Cup stadium, there is a community of more than 3,000 families who can no longer afford to pay rent in the city. They have put together plastic tents for shelter, and have called themselves the "People's Cup," hoping to pressure the government to provide low-income housing.
In the past month there have been demonstrations in 18 Brazilian cities. The largest and most violent was today's, as authorities deployed tear gas, and protesters threw rocks. It is very understandable that the people of Brazil have run amok in their beloved country, Brazilian champion soccer player Cafu, who himself grew up in poverty, said. But he added that tensions should be set aside in the spirit of the event.
We agree with you, Cafu — hopefully tension in Brazil settles; and we hope the best for the Brazilian people, as well.