Rio de Janeiro: Anti-World Cup campaigners in Brazil have threatened demonstrations during the showcase tournament next month but FIFA insisted that it would be an unfair target. Insecurity and fears of a repeat of demonstrations last year involving hundreds of thousands of people have bedevilled the build-up to the World Cup already hit by stadium delays. FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke says Brazil has social problems and that new demonstrations cannot be ruled out but that people are wrong to say the $11 billion cost is a waste of money.

“When people are saying that we have put something into the World Cup that they could use for other projects, they’re wrong,” Valcke said on “The World Cup is a way to speed up a number of investments in a country.  It is easy to criticise FIFA, it’s easy to use the Confederations Cup or World Cup to organise demonstrations. But the target is wrong if the target is that FIFA are the reason for what’s happening in a country. If a country is bidding for a World Cup, it’s with the idea of developing the country and not with the idea of destroying the country,” he further stated.

Anti-Cup protests have faded in recent months. But left wing and anarchist groups, who say the money could be better spent
on health and education, have vowed to hold demonstrations during the World Cup which runs from June 12 until July 13. The uncertainty worries many, alongside doubts about preparations.

The government will mobilise unprecedented security for the World Cup, deploying a record 170,000 police, troops and private security personnel during the World Cup. Yet there has been an upsurge of social unrest in Rio de Janeiro, which will host seven World Cup matches, including the final.

The killing of a dancer last month in a slum area near the main tourist drag at Copacabana Beach sparked violent protests amid residents’ claims the police were responsible for the death.Since the start of the year, seven police units in so-called ‘pacified’ Rio slums have been attacked in violence blamed on drug trafficking gangs. Six police officers have died.

Brazil has laboured to get its 12 stadiums ready. Six missed a December 31 deadline for completion and four are still not finished. President Dilma Rousseff, targeting re-election in Octobers polls, has been busy inaugurating stadiums. But she has also acknowledged concerns about unfinished work in Sao Paulo, Curitiba, Cuiaba and Porto Alegre.

All of the stadiums were supposed to have 4G internet connections — but the government itself admits to poor wi-fi access in half of the stadiums as well as to concerns over operations at airports in need of major upgrading.“While Brazil does have experience of major works I have come across few things running so far behind as the World Cup,” Lamartine Pereira da Costa, professor of Olympic studies and sports management at Rio’s UERJ University and the University of East London told AFP.

Though Brazilians generally support the Cup, opinion polls show the proportion in favour steadily dropping, from 79 percent in 2008 to just 48 percent in an April poll. Six years ago, 10% said they opposed the tournament, but that has risen to 41 percent today. “Nobody knows what the scope of the protests will be,” says Professor Da Costa.

“But it could be that two things will happen simultaneously: That the Cup is a great success — along with a big protest reaction against the government.”“The big factor in Brazil’s favour is the population, which always responds very well. Once the Cup starts, their reaction could be very positive,” Da Costa said.

But protests could drag down the popularity of Rousseff, who current polls show as out in front with 35 percent of voter intentions and winning on a second ballot.The last six months have seen her poll ratings slide by eight percentage points amid pallid economic growth and voter dissatisfaction over poor public services.

Rousseff says she will take the football results and events around the World Cup in her stride.“Brazil could be champion and I could lose the election. Brazil may not get that far and I get re-elected,” she mused recently.  AFP

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