Trecker’s Brazilian Travels, Day 3: Tire Fires and Protests

June 14th, 2013

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Photo: Jamie Trecker / FOX Soccer

By Jamie Trecker

BRASILIA, BRAZIL

It’s not every day that you walk over to a stadium to be confronted by plumes of black smoke, shooting hundreds of feet into the air. But that was the scene this morning outside the Garrincha, here in Brazil’s capital.

Protests have been roiling Brazil this week, and there’s a good reason for it: the World Cup has cost the public here an incredible amount of money – and Brazil’s cost of living keeps on rising. A hamburger from a chain restaurant costs double what it does in the United States. You don’t want to know how much a bottle of beer is. Even a small fluctuation in prices has a big ripple effect in a country that has only recently lifted 40 million people out of abject poverty.

There is something in the air here, and it’s not just smoke: people are fed up. When the corruption and waste surrounding the World Cup first came to light, it was greeted with a shrug, a sign of business as usual. But when it became apparent that almost all the money was going into stadiums – and very little was going into building things people could actually use on a daily basis – things changed. Many Brazilians – despite their love for the sport – are finding it hard to get on board with an event they see as solely for the rich.

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Some protests have turned violent. I saw none of that today: they used tactics straight out of Occupy: a group of them sat down in front of the police and fire trucks to prevent them from moving into the larger group while they had people shadowing the crowd with expensive smartphones. They were also media savvy: I was approached with a printed handout, and the group’s spokesman took pains to detail their grievances.

(I tweeted and Instagrammed the events, sparking a conversation on both services. One wrote: “We should protest: People are fed up of this government and their expensive taxes.”)

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This group seemed to me to to be a familiar crowd: they looked like my neighbors in Chicago. Not so long ago, residents in my neighborhood protested the city’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games on the grounds that it would needlessly displace poor residents, saddle the city with white elephant stadiums, and cost unconscionable amounts of money. The protestors in Brasilia are making the same points – except they have already lost the battle.

“We want the world to know what is going on here,” the spokesman said to me. “We want the world media to see it. We’re not terrorists, we’re Brazilians.”

Rio and Sao Paolo will face additional protests this week over the handling of the World Cup, transportation fare hikes and more. There is no sign these protests will end any time soon.

This piece is part of a series of pieces sponsored by the new Samsung Galaxy S4. The pictures that accompany this blog post were taken with it. I’m traveling across Brazil this month, and you should tell me what you’d like to hear about. Tweet me at @JamieTreckerFOX or use the #heytrecker hashtag @FOXSoccer.

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