Brazil Hit by New Wave of Widespread Protests

Brazil new protestsFrom Al-Jazeera – May 15, 2014 – http://tinyurl.com/q7kze94 | Thanks to Golden Age of Gaia.

A wave of protests in several cities raises fears of chaos, with four weeks to go before the World Cup kickoff.

Brazilian officials are bracing themselves for a wave of anti-government demonstrations in several cities, many in protest at the high spending on next month’s World Cup.

Authorities said there were about 15 separate protests in Sao Paulo on Thursday. Most were gatherings of a few hundred people, although about 5000 demonstrators gathered near the Itaquerao soccer stadium in Sao Paulo, which is set to host the opening match of the World Cup.

People waved red banners and Brazilian flags as black smoke rose from burning tyres, spoiling the view of the stadium. Dozens of riot police blocked the main entrance next to a construction zone where cranes and other machines were lined up to carry materials still needed to finish the arena.

Groups also planned anti-government demonstrations in other cities hosting World Cup games. Some were called by two big unions that are demanding better wages and working conditions.

The demonstrations are being viewed as a test of the government’s ability to contain protests ahead of football’s flagship event.

Massive anti-government protests across Brazil last year overshadowed the Confederations Cup, a warm-up tournament to the World Cup, with more than a million people taking to the streets on a single night.

Many of the demonstrations turned violent. At least six people were killed in connection with the protests, most being run over by cars as rallies packed busy streets.

Brazilians are angry at the billions spent to host the World Cup, much of it on 12 ornate football stadiums, one-third of which critics say will see little use after the big event. Those who have taken to the streets want the government to focus on improving the country’s health, education, security and infrastructure.

The government hopes that the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio will put Brazil in the global spotlight, showing advances the country has made in the past decade in improving its economy and pulling tens of millions of people out of poverty.

Outrage at the cost of the World Cup drove about a million Brazilians to the streets in protest last year [EPA]

Brazil Audit: ‘Corrupt World Cup Costs’

From AlJazeera – May 13, 2014 – http://tinyurl.com/prggkvr

Outrage at the cost of the World Cup drove about a million Brazilians to the streets in protest last year [EPA]

The cost of building Brasilia’s World Cup stadium has nearly tripled to $900m in public funds, largely due to allegedly fraudulent billing, government auditors have said.

After the dramatic increase in costs, it is now the world’s second-most expensive football arena, even though the city has no major professional team.

Analysis of data from Brazil’s top electoral court by the AP news agency shows skyrocketing campaign contributions by companies that have won the most World Cup projects.

The lead builder of Brasilia’s stadium increased its political donations 500-fold in the most recent election.

The links between construction firms and politicians add to suspicions that preparations for football’s premier event are marred by corruption.

They also raise questions about how politicians who benefit from construction firms’ largesse can be effective watchdogs over billion-dollar World Cup contracts.

“These donations are making corruption in this country even worse and making it increasingly difficult to fight,” said Renato Rainha, an arbiter at Brasilia’s Audit Court, which is investigating the Brasilia stadium spending.

“These politicians are working for those who financed campaigns.”

With only three-fourths of the $900m stadium project examined by auditors, $275m hve already been found in alleged price-gouging.

Federal prosecutors say as yet no individuals or companies face corruption charges related to World Cup works. There are at least a dozen separate federal investigations into World Cup spending.

Claudio Monteiro, the head of the government’s World Cup committee in Brasilia responsible for oversight, said the audit court’s allegations were simply wrong and that all the spending would be justified.

“This report comes out just 100 days before the Cup? That’s why I say they’re trying to spoil the party,” Monteiro said from his office outside the stadium. “We’re going to show how this report is off base.”

Political contributions

Funding for Brasilia’s stadium relies solely on financing from the federal district’s coffers, meaning every cent comes from taxpayers.

The auditors’ report found instances of what appears to be flagrant overpricing.

For instance, it says the transportation of pre-fabricated grandstands was supposed to cost just $4,700, but the construction consortium billed the government $1.5m.

The consortium is made up of Andrade Gutierrez, a construction conglomerate, and Via Engenharia, an engineering firm.

The steel to build the arena represented one-fifth of total expenses, and auditors say wasteful cutting practices or poor planning added $28m in costs, the single biggest overrun.

The audit questions why the consortium had to discard 12 percent of its steel in Brasilia when Andrade Gutierrez, using the same cutting methods, lost just five percent of steel at another stadium in Manaus, and virtually none at a Cup arena in the city of Cuiaba.

Andrade Gutierrez did not respond to an AP request for comment on the accusations of cost overruns. It noted its political donations were legal.

Andrade Gutierrez, which was awarded stakes in contracts totaling nearly one-fourth of the World Cup’s total price tag, contributed $73,180 in 2008 municipal elections.

Four years later, after it was known which cities were hosting tournament matches, and thus which political parties controlled the local governments that awarded and are overseeing cup projects, the company’s political contributions totaled $37.1m.

Widespread protests

While those campaign contributions were legal, they are likely to soon be banned by Brazil’s Supreme Court.

A majority of justices voted last month to end corporate donations, citing corruption concerns. A single justice demanded to delay a final vote, meaning the reform will not take effect for months, after the World Cup is over.

Suspicions abound in Brazil, where in a poll last year three-fourths of respondents said the World Cup construction has been infused with corruption.

That helped fuel widespread, often violent, anti-government protests last June that sent more than a million Brazilians onto the streets. Many protesters railed against the billions spent to host the tournament.

The overall price of the 12 stadiums, four of which critics say will become white elephants after the tournament because they are in cities that cannot support them, has jumped to $4.2bn in nominal terms, nearly four times the estimate in a 2007 FIFA document published just days before Brazil was awarded the tournament.

At the time, leaders also promised the stadiums would be privately funded.

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