Brazil's Rousseff on World Cup: 'Get FIFA off my back'
By Ben Tavener, Friday, May 16, 2014
SAO PAULO – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has spoken of the pressure she has endured from World Cup bosses over infrastructure projects in the run-up to the tournament, local media reported Friday.
Speaking at a dinner for journalists Thursday night, Rousseff let on she was tired of complaints from leading figures from World Cup organizers FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) on areas that, according to her, do not concern them.
She alluded to comments made by FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Secretary-General Jérôme Valcke over the country's delayed urban mobility projects. The infrastructure schemes are to facilitate the World Cup but Rousseff says they are ultimately destined to benefit Brazilians in everyday life.
The comments are some of the most outspoken by the president, and referred to plans for metro lines, bus routes and other urban mobility projects that have been delayed or apparently abandoned.
“Get Blatter and Valcke off my back! They don't have anything to do for the World Cup; they are projects for the cities,” the president was quoted by the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper as saying.
Last week Folha published an update on World Cup projects and found that just 41 percent had been completed, and that urban mobility had borne the brunt of delays with just 10 percent ready.
The government replied that no project promised as part of the World Cup legacy was going to be abandoned, and that everything would be delivered after the tournament.
- Brazil 'will go wild'
The president's comments come after Brazil saw small but tense protests coordinated by anti-World Cup and Homeless Workers' Movement-affiliated groups in at least nine states around the country and the Federal District on Thursday.
Police dispersed a small number of violent protesters with tear gas in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where crowds of around 1,300 in both cities took to the streets to voice anger at government spending on the key football (soccer) event and demand housing for the poorest in society.
The groups have all vowed new protests, including at the opening match of the World Cup on June 12 in São Paulo, but the demonstrations are a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets in over 300 cities during last year's Confederations Cup.
When asked whether she was worried Brazil would turn its back on the World Cup during the event, President Rousseff told journalists confidently: “When the time comes, this country will go wild.”
The president has previously vowed Brazil will host a “World Cup of World Cups.”
- Not worried yet
A number of public sectors strikes also coincided with the protests Thursday.
Some 8,000 educational staff marched on City Hall in São Paulo after rejecting an offer from the local government to end the strike, which began on April 23 and unions say has effectively closed 60 percent of schools.
Civil servants, military police, street cleaners and public transport workers were also on strike across the country, with many questioning why World Cup expenditure had been prioritized over public services.
However, despite the coordinated nature of Thursday's day of protests and strikes, the government is unlikely to be alarmed.
Political commentators say anti-World Cup protests of over 10,000 would begin to concern the authorities, who have spent millions on security in the run-up to the tournament.
São Paulo police said Friday that it would deploy 4,265 officers to 40 strategic points around the city, Brazil's biggest, which will be patrolled around the clock from May 20 and throughout the World Cup. They include hotels, team training centers, World Cup fan focal points and key transport links.
Brazil is expecting over 3 million Brazilian tourists and 600,000 overseas visitors to head to the 12 World Cup host cities dotted around the country.
Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency