Less than a month before the World Cup begins two pillars of society critical to hosting a successful World Cup have initiated a strike: police and public transit officials. The bus strike in Brazil’s largest city began on Tuesday and at least 300,000 commuters have been affected. Traffic was reported to stretch 162 miles on one major road according to Sao Paulo Transit (SPTrans).
To make matters worse, police officers in 14 of Brazil’s states have also gone on strike to protests concerns over security at the World Cup and demand an increase in salary. States include Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais, Bahia, Pernambuco and Amazonas, all of which are home to World Cup stadiums.
The Washington Post reports that wages for military and civil servants rose 9.9 percent annually during Lula’s second term, not taking into account inflation, versus 6.4 percent in Rousseff’s first three years, according to data from the National Statistics Agency. Consumer prices rose an average of 4.81 percent a year during Lula’s second term compared to 6.1 percent in Rousseff’s first three.
With seven years of World Cup preparation under Brazil’s belt, the laundry list of unfulfilled promises continues to grow. President Rousseff spent serious political capital in convincing the public that the “World Cup of World Cups” was a sound investment or a “non-investment” as the majority of the funds would come from private investment. Now the price tag is at $11 billion in public funds.
Public concerns about the direction of the country are especially concerning as this is an election year. However, is it possible that the awakening of the citizens of Brazil to demand more from their elected officials was the overall benefit of the World Cup? Without a World Cup, would civil society have mobilized with such passion? Maybe this serves as an expensive but valuable lesson to the future leaders across all sectors in Brazil that the people deserve transparency, integrity and opportunity far beyond when the games are over and despite who wins the golden trophy. My hope is that this is the case for the eternal emerging giant to transform from the mega country of the future to the mega country of today.