Amid waves of protests and the loud concerns of some of the nation’s most prominent soccer stars, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is firing back against those who claim the government has spent millions on the 2014 World Cup that could have gone to improving the nation’s education or other infrastructure.
“It is absurd to claim that money used for stadiums compromises education in Brazil,” Rousseff told young members of the Labor Party in Sao Paolo this weekend. The comments, published in the Brazilian paper O Globo, target criticisms by protesters – many teachers in particular – that the country simply cannot afford hosting such a large sporting event given its current infrastructure.
Rousseff backed up her claim with evidence that spending on education has increased during her tenure. Brazil’s education budget under her predecessor, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was $8.2 billion; under Rousseff, that has ballooned to $50 billion.
This is not the first time President Rousseff has responded directly to criticisms of her administration for accepting the task of hosting the tournament. Rousseff asserted that the country has “no reason to be ashamed, and we don’t have an inferiority complex” after soccer legend Ronaldo lamented the inefficiency of the Brazilian government in organizing the tournament. Ronaldo has been particularly vocal against preparations for the tournament, noting that several projects promising to be useful long after the tournament ended were shelved.
Ronaldo has also been supportive of Brazilian law enforcement efforts to contain anti-World Cup protests, however. Last week, Ronaldo called for police to “bring down the clubs” on protesters that engaged in violence and that it was imperative to “get them off the street.”
Another Brazilian soccer legend, Pelé, has called tournament preparations an “embarrassment,” particularly delays in constructing facilities and preparing neighborhoods for the influx of tourists, asserting that the country “had enough time” to organizing the event.
Many in Brazil have accused the police of using violence to clear up dangerous neighborhoods near sites that are now to be used for the World Cup, but that has not been the only hurdle to smooth tournament preparations for the country. Last month, spoiled food was confiscated from the luxury hotels meant to house the Italian and English soccer teams, as well as food that was not obviously spoiled but also failed to include an expiration date.
Not all has been delays and malfunctions, however. On Sunday, Rio de Janeiro debuted its Transcarioca Bus System, a new infrastructure project designed to make it easier for tourists to navigate the city and travel to an from the city’s airport. President Rousseff inaugurated the $700 million system by riding its first bus, though the celebration was not without fault: the bus system is not yet completed, nor will it be by the time the World Cup starts.