By Scott Bobb
July 3rd, 2014 (VOA) The Brazilian government says it has invested billions of dollars in infrastructure, security and social enhancements as part of the preparations for the World Cup. While the government says these investments will have long-term benefits for society, independent analysts say the impact is mixed.
Urban planners say the $11 billion spent on stadiums and infrastructure has provided jobs to some poor Brazilians, but the public works have also driven up housing costs and forced the least wealthy residents further away from jobs and services.
Particularly controversial has been the so-called pacification program in informal communities, or favelas. Special police, called UPP’s (Police Pacification Units), have been deployed in dozens of favelas to drive out drug traffickers and other criminals.
The results have been mixed, according to Urbanism Professor Chris Gaffney, from the local Fluminense Federal University.
“One benefit is we have seen a dramatic decrease in mortality rates through gunfire, because the police no longer come in and open fire randomly in these pacified communities. We have also seen an increase in petty crimes, rapes and burglaries,” said Gaffney.
Gaffney said traffickers belonged to these communities and imposed their own kind of instant justice, whereas the police are viewed with suspicion. He said the gangsters have just moved their operations to other favelas.
Nevertheless, the program has brought some order to previously lawless neighborhoods.
“These places were closed in many respects to the formal market. So the UPP goes in [to the favela] and it removes the barrier of the drug traffickers and allows all kinds of market forces to flow through it, whether it is tourism or state-sponsored projects or formalized businesses to come in in the form of banks,” explained Gaffney.
The investment in social programs by the World Cup organizing body, FIFA, is another positive development, said Sports Management professor Lisa Delpy Neirotti of George Washington University.
“There has been a lot of educational programs, teaching young people about the environment, using football to educate them about other issues in terms of, like, AIDS, and getting them to come and go to school,” said Neirotti.
She added that under FIFA pressure, the government has adopted some pro-environmental measures such as recycling waste at the stadiums and ensuring the structures meet the guidelines of the LEEDS energy and environmental design program.
“The biggest challenge is the legacy, will these programs continue? Will people remember to recycle?” asked Neirotti.
The Brazilian government says billions of dollars will be added to the economy because of the World Cup, but many Brazilians believe the money will go to only a few.
Critics note several European cities have rejected proposals to host such mega-events. They believe the model needs to be re-examined if host nations are to avoid public protests like those that have accompanied the Brazil World Cup.