BrazilSÃO PAULO, Brazil — In February, during a protest here against the World Cup, demonstrators were running away from rubber bullets and tear gas when they bumped into a group celebrating Carnival. The Carnival people took shelter inside a bar, while cheering the police repression with shouts of: “Well done! Well done!” One man insulted a female demonstrator. He was laughing and clapping, his eyes filled with a mixture of rage and joy.

Similar scenes have been repeated across the nation in the last few weeks. It seems Brazil doesn’t have just one national team representing it during this World Cup; it has two: those who support the tournament, and those who do not.

The pro side includes all soccer fans who are passionate about the World Cup, as well as Brazilians who are aligned with the federal government. They claim that it’s a huge economic opportunity and a good way to promote Brazil abroad. They also believe our country has sufficient resources to host the tournament while still investing in public services like health care and education. For them, it makes no sense blaming the World Cup for our domestic problems. They often use the word “legacy.”

“The airports, subways and stadiums will not go back with the tourists in their suitcases. They will stay here, benefiting us all,” said President Dilma Rousseff.

The supporters say that protests should have happened seven years ago; now it’s too late to complain. Those who continue in their opposition are seen as enemies of the left-wing government — hence, protesters are considered fascists or terrorists.

The other team is represented by the activists on the streets. They are almost alone in their struggle. They face the media’s disapproval and police repression; during one February protest, there were reportedly 2,300 police officers for 1,500 protesters — more than one officer for each demonstrator. That day, 262 people were arrested.

The main reason for repressing or dismissing the protesters is that they are seen as vandals and criminals. Some of them — usually young people, many of them anarchists, who dress in black and cover their faces — do use what are called “Black Bloc” tactics. These originated in anticapitalist and antigovernment movements in Italy and Germany in the late 1970s and early ’80s. They consist of defensive tactics like forming a front line to protect demonstrators and building barricades, as well as offensive actions such as street fighting and vandalizing symbolic targets like government buildings or banks.

Of course, the Black Blocs represent a small part of the rallies — I’d say roughly 10 percent. Most of the demonstrators are peaceful and just want to openly disapprove of the excessive spending of public money on a private event. They point out that, seven years ago, the government promised that “not a single cent of public funds” would be spent building or refurbishing stadiums. But almost 97 percent of the investment in the arenas has come from taxpayers’ money. Of the World Cup’s total cost of $11.5 billion, 85.5 percent has come from public funds. The protesters also speak out against forced evictions, deaths of construction workers, tax exemptions and corruption.

On June 12, the first day of the World Cup, a protest in São Paulo was brutally repressed before it could even start. The police detained 33 citizens for “verification purposes,” even though this is illegal under our Constitution. Lawyers were denied access to their clients, while first- aid workers and legal observers were also attacked. Several police officers removed their identification tags.

Despite these problems, our news media is covering politics as if it were a sporting event. “Residents 3 vs. Activists 1,” read a recent headline in one major newspaper, after a protest in São Paulo — as though it was a soccer match between police officers and protesters, with people watching from the stands.

The newspaper said that residents harassed protesters and, in one city, threw eggs at them. “Shoot them!” a man yelled to the police from his window. “Crush them!” shouted a 70-year-old woman, claiming that Brazilians were embarrassing themselves in front of the world. A retired salesman told a New York Times reporter, “I just want Brazil to win the cup in order to silence these clowns who are protesting.”

So we’ve reached a Brazil vs. Brazil situation, a competitive scenario in which one side celebrates the harms done to the other. What I don’t understand is how the pro-World Cup people could possibly win when the protesters are repressed, since their own civil rights are also at stake. The more they celebrate the violation of basic rights like freedom of expression and the right to assemble, the more everybody loses.

This became clear to me during that February protest, when the Carnival group was cheering on the police from the shelter of a bar. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, the police threw a percussion grenade inside the bar. The man who, moments before, had insulted a female demonstrator, was the first to be brutally pushed by a police officer.

But since we’re on the sports field, this is the score: From the beginning of the protests six months ago to the time Brazil’s team finished its first match, in São Paulo we’ve had a total of 10 banks vandalized (front glass shattered) and two car dealerships damaged. In the same period, 505 people were arrested here and 89 injured (according to GAPP, a group of first-aid volunteers), including one shot with real bullets.

No one is going to win this game.

Vanessa Barbara, a novelist and columnist for the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo.



Nearly 200,000 match tickets were bought in the US, which comes as some surprise given that “soccer” is still way behind US sports in popularity. The next biggest market was Argentina, a long way behind, followed by Germany, England and Colombia, according to Fifa.

The number of US fans travelling overseas isn’t surprising to Christopher Harris, editor and publisher of “US Soccer has done a fantastic job marketing to the audience, who have disposable income, love sports and don’t mind spending thousands of dollars to support their country.”

Soccer is a perfect embodiment of American patriotism, he says, with very few US sports having a national sports team that can compete with the best in the world.

A major reason for the recent increase in travelling fans is the growing popularity of the American Outlaws supporters group, says Harris, which has 135 chapters nationwide and flew three charter planes to Brazil. There, they have outnumbered most other fans, inside and outside the stadiums. Not long ago, it was hard to find the USA football shirt in shops, now they’re ubiquitous in Brazil. One long-time USA fan, Jason Burak, told Slate the transformation has made him well up.

The US fans are here, they are visible and so loud that they draw puzzled looks from locals and other tourists alike.

On non-game days, you will hear the American accents in restaurants up and down Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, but when the US team plays, the streets are filled with stars-and-stripe Speedos, red and blue Mohicans and continuous chants of “U S A! U S A!”

In the viewing areas, when Spain or Netherlands play, the atmosphere is joyous and relaxed, but when Klinsmann’s team kicks off, thousands of US fans fill the beach-side viewing party and it’s more like a sold-out rock concert.

Hailing from all over the US, some boast “soccer” knowledge rivalling the post-game analysts, others are just here “to have fun”. Rio has noticed, the Americans are in town. Argentina and Chile fans are also highly visible but the number of US fans could surpass even them.

Whether they are the biggest group is hard to say as so many fans travel without tickets. In Germany in 2006, it was widely believed that England fans formed the largest horde, with police estimating that 70,000 made the trip. There’s also the likelihood that many of the tickets bought in the US were by fans of other countries, says ESPN football commentator Allen Hopkins. “We are a melting pot and although fans will identify as Americans, they may go to Brazil to support Mexico or Costa Rica and support the US on a secondary basis.”

But there’s little doubt that football has become “cool”, says Hopkins, and Brazil has a particular allure for Americans, as the “Mecca” of football and a great place to party.



MANAUS, Brazil—We were down by the port, where the air smelt of cigarette smoke and stale beer, when I realized how much things had changed.

Three men sat at a tiny table playing cards that were stained with splashes of wine and curled at the corners because of the humidity. One had a tattoo of a strand of rosary beads running down his forearm, the other sat shirtless, a thin layer of sweat beading up on his shoulders. His attention drifted between the card game and a World Cup match on his cellphone. Off in the distance, you could hear the sound of a boat motoring into a river’s muddy waters.

It was Saturday afternoon in Manaus, a sweltering, squalid city of close to 2 million in the Amazon rainforest. The next day the U.S. would play Portugal, and it seemed everyone had an opinion on the game. I asked the men at the table who they thought would win. “I think the U.S.,” one of them said, diverting his attention briefly from his cards. “But I’m rooting for Portugal.”

The oddsmakers disagreed with him: Even a Portugal hobbled by injuries would beat the U.S., they said. But I found it surprising how many Brazilians believed a different result likely. Having lived in Brazil years ago, I am used to the word fraca(weak) to describe our national team. But things were different now.

What surprised me even more, considering Manaus had once been a Portuguese colony, were how few fans I saw from Portugal. The city, it seemed, had been taken over by Americans. And that, more than anything else, is why the Brazilians quietly hoped we’d lose.

Being an American fan hadn’t always been this way, of course. A few days before, I had been sitting in a bar in a little surf village on the northeast coast of Brazil, talking with U.S. fans who had spent a decade following the national team from Turkey to Panama. It wasn’t that long ago, they reminded me, that you couldn’t buy a U.S. national team jersey because nobody bothered to carry them. “I remember going to a Gold Cup final in New Jersey, the U.S. against Mexico, and I couldn’t even hear the national anthem because there were so many Mexican fans booing,” a fan named Jason Burak said. “We were this tiny contingent of American fans, just this little cluster. So to go to [the World Cup opener] and see that many Americans, I’m not going to lie, I got a little choked up.”

I had been at that game too, between the U.S. and Ghana, and I’m not going to lie either: I, too, got a little choked up. But I had noticed something else. Midway through the first half, when yet another deafening “U-S-A!” chant drowned out any other sound in the stadium, a bald-pated man wearing the canary-colored jersey of the Brazilian national team rose from his seat and began a chant for Ghana. He did it with a smile, and we all understood: There were so few Ghanaian fans in the stadium, they needed all the help they could get (even though their team was thoroughly outclassing ours at the moment). When he was shouted down by the U.S. fans, with yet another thundering “U-S-A!” chant, his smile turned to a sneer. Soon, Brazilians in our section were chanting for their team, even though they weren’t on the field, with something that was morphing into outright hostility, as if to say: This is our game. In that moment, we were no longer the plucky underdogs we’ve been for so long, the lovable losers giving the world’s game a try with our clumsy passing and horrid first touch. Suddenly, we were a threat on the field, and in the stands at least, we were a bully.

I thought about this as I walked through the grimy streets of Manaus in the days leading up to Sunday night’s game, the heat heavy on my neck like a clammy hand. Everywhere I went, I saw Americans. I saw them in a stone cathedral, kneeling beneath soaring archways built in the 19th century, in our rocket-pop-inspired home jerseys, perhaps praying for a victory. Down in the market, where the air smelt of roasting fish, I saw them buying the fake weapons of Amazonian warriors to take home to their children. And I listened as two fans from Pittsburgh, out on the river, fishing for piranha with sticks of bamboo, talked about Michael Bradleyand Clint Dempsey the way they might Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu back home. But I rarely saw anyone wearing the jersey of Portugal.

Hardcore soccer fans in the U.S. (the sort that follow the Premier League) are constantly taking measure of where we stand compared with, say, Mexico, or especially England. Do we travel well? Are our fans sufficiently rowdy? How creative are our chants? (Answer: not very. “U-S-A! U-S-A!”) What’s unsaid is the hope that this is the year soccer finally arrives on our shores. And by arrive, I mean the U.S. at last becoming one of the best teams in the world.

But as I sat in the stadium, in what once again amounted to a home game, I realized what we’ve been waiting for is already here. No, we are not Argentina or Italy or Brazil, and we may never be. We are not one of the best teams in the world. But as the first two games of this World Cup showed, we have become a side thatmust be respected. No longer do we simply hunker down and hope for goals off counterattacks and set pieces. Now we can dictate the pace and render the world’s best player ineffective and invisible for most of the game.

We can also play beautifully, scoring rocketing goals to the back of the net like Jermaine Jones did, and we can score in slick, even sublime ways, like Clint Dempsey did in the 81st minute.

Going into the tournament, after our first friendly, one of my friends told me we’d be lucky to score a goal in the World Cup. We had no chance of advancing and would surely be eliminated by the end of the Portugal match. We booked our tickets home accordingly.

But with less than a minute to go, the script had been flipped. We were about to win the group and everyone around us was thinking about extending the trip beyond the group stage.

Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t do jack all game until he did, proving that with one perfectly placed pass, he could change the course of a match, and perhaps our fate (and Portugal’s) in this tournament. It left the American fans gutted, sitting in stunned silence long after the match was over. For everyone in Brazil who isn’t traveling on an American passport, this had to have been a nice turn of events: The American fans had to shut up, at least for a moment.

The fact that the U.S. has never been all that good at soccer has allowed us to cheer for our team in a full-throated, hyper-patriotic, guilt-free way. But as we gain respect on the field, our overbearing presence in the stadium stops being charming. The U.S. has everything else. Can’t the rest of the world just have this? Judging by the past few weeks in Brazil, the U.S. national team and its loudest, proudest fans have this to say in response:U-S-A! U-S-A!




Cruising the World Wide Web has been an American adventure from the start, with the United States and its tech community in the driver’s seat, dominating in terms of users, technology and policymaking. Now it’s time to start sharing the wheel.

It’s not Internet behemoths China or India, with their billion-plus populations of potential Web surfers, grabbing for it. It’s Brazil, which is positioning itself as an increasingly powerful voice in the international debate over the future of the Web, post Edward Snowden’s U.S. spying revelations (incidentally, Snowden’s chief ally in the media, Glenn Greenwald, makes his home in Rio). It’s backed there by a fast growing and active population of Internet users, seasoned tech entrepreneurs and policy wonks, and a populist vision somewhere between America’s corporate approach and China’s state-controlled take on the Web.

What Brazil wants: Privacy, free speech and other protections for its booming population of Internet users, guarantees that the Internet will remain open and unchecked by governments (like China or America’s NSA) or companies (largely based in the United States) and more resources to expand access to a more diverse and low-income crop of users.

Those are the issues at the heart of “Internet governance” that have provoked heated debates over personal liberties, national security and billion-dollar bottom lines.

As Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff boiled it down at NETmundial, the international conference her government convened in São Paulo in April: “An open and decent network architecture … helps make communications more democratic and also fosters constant innovation.” Nothing less than the future of the World Wide Web is at stake, argued Rousseff.

Ad-hockery has ruled the multinational bodies tasked with setting the basic rules of the road for how servers connect and how information flows. And global rulemaking has taken on a distinctly American accent, a “multistakeholder” model that includes lots of private sector influence.

The Internet has changed a lot since the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia tried to reduce American dominance, and Internet policy experts say the world now faces another inflection point on the way forward.

In Brazil, Internet use since the Tunisia Summit has roughly tripled, now closing in on 100 million people. More than half of Brazilians over the age of 13 have Internet access, well ahead of fellow emerging markets India and China, according to the consulting firm McKinsey and Company. And they’re active — particularly on social media, ranking among the top nationalities of users on Facebook and Twitter.

Brazilians have civil society activists to thank for the advanced state of their Internet. This group of tech geeks rallied as early as 1992 to help bring order to the nascent online universe, says Raquel Gatto, a Web expert at the nonprofit Internet Society in São Paulo. In 1995, they joined with the national government to form the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee, with a board made up of government ministers, tech experts, business executives and rights activists. The committee manages the .br domain registry, promotes infrastructure and access projects and helps Brazil speak as one powerful voice internationally.

But it was Snowden’s exposé of America’s online snooping, including taps on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, that has galvanized Brazil’s Internet community to push for more developing-world say.

It started with Rousseff’s scorching speech to the United Nations General Assembly last September. But Brazil’s proven more than a scold. In coordination with the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a non-governmental body that helps maintain the technical architecture of the Web, Rousseff launched plans for NETmundial last fall, with the aim of establishing “universal Internet principles and an institutional framework for multistakeholder Internet governance.”

Western governments and much of the U.S. tech industry feared the event would devolve into another round of America and rich-world bashing, but the outcome was roundly hailed as a positive, if nebulous, contribution to the discussion — even by the U.S. policymakers and corporations that took part.

The Marco Civil institutes strict regulations for storing user data for any companies with Brazilian users, even if they’re in the United States.

“Brazil has traditionally had a different take” than the United States on who the lead Internet policy decision makers should be, says Adam Segal, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. But what came out of the conference, beyond expressions of universally espoused principles, says Segal, was “a pretty strong embrace of the [U.S.-backed] multistakeholder model.”

Of course, Brazil’s not just lining up behind the United States on how to oversee the Internet of the future.

The same day Rousseff welcomed delegates to NETmundial, she signed a new domestic law, the Marco Civil or “Internet Bill of Rights,” which guarantees, among other things, a right to privacy online and “net neutrality” regarding the speed at which information travels over the Web. It also, controversially, institutes strict regulations for storing user data for any companies with Brazilian users, even if, say, they’re in the United States.

Already, says Gatto, the Brazilian government is consulting with others around the world about implementing their own versions of the law.

With a flurry of international conferences on the subject slated for coming months, they’ll have a chance to test their leadership further. In September, the issues will come up at the United Nations General Assembly and the U.N.-sponsored Internet Governance Forum annual conference in Istanbul, and again in October at a gathering of the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union in South Korea. Next year Brazil will host the IGF on home turf.

With NETmundial and Marco Civil in the rearview mirror, Brazilians feel more confident than ever that they have a special role to play in the future of the Internet.

Domestic experience, says Gatto, has given the country “solid grounds to leverage at the international level.” It just took a catalyst by the name of Edward Snowden, she says, to galvanize action. is a USA TODAY content partner providing general news, commentary and coverage from around the Web. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.




U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Tuesday morning, trying to repair a relationship shattered by allegations of U.S. spying.

Biden arrived Tuesday at the Palacio Planalto, Brazil’s version of the White House, telling reporters that he was “confident” that the U.S. could re-establish ties with Latin America’s largest country. Biden will also hold meetings with Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer. The U.S. was Brazil’s largest trade partner until being passed recently by China.

Brazil’s relationship with the U.S. has been chilly since last year, when former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden disclosed thousands of pages of documents showing the agency collected data on Brazil’s president and local companies such as state-run oil company Petrobras.

Rousseff canceled a visit and state dinner with U.S. President Barack Obama in the wake of the spying allegations. Brazil has pushed the U.S. for assurances that the spying has ended.

There has also been speculation that Snowden could eventually seek asylum in Brazil, although Brazilian government officials have said that he has not yet made such a request. Snowden’s temporary visa to stay in Russia expires later this year.

Biden was in Brazil to see Monday’s World Cup match between the U.S. and Ghana. The U.S. team won, 2-1, leaving the vice president in a good mood ahead of his visit with Rousseff, according to local press reports. U.S. soccer fans were the biggest foreign buyers of tickets for the FIFA 2014 World Cup, which is being hosted at 12 cities throughout Brazil.

The month-long tournament ends July 13, when the final match will be played in Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium.

After the meetings in Brazil, Biden will head to Colombia and Guatemala as part of a trip to meet with other South American and Central American leaders.



NATAL, Brazil – The rain has been incessant in Natal for the past 48 hours. It has come in waves, sheets, torrents, and buckets, forcing the beachside community indoors to take in the first three days of the World Cup.

Roberto Freire Avenue is the main highway running parallel to Natal’s coastline. In many ways, it’s like any boardwalk you might encounter on a summer vacation. There are hotels, gift shops, and eateries intermixed with beach homes. Of course, there are differences too. Like the country’s favorite sport is hosting its biggest event in the middle of this sleepy beach town.

And it’s raining the kind of rain you build an ark for.

I went out in this rain on Friday to cover Mexico and Cameroon. Under the shelter of Arena Das Dunas, I took in the spectacle. The match was fantastic, the environment electric.

On Saturday, I went out in the rain again. This time, to watch England and Italy in a bar filled with strangers. The place was packed. Wall to wall, every seat filled. People from across the world wedged together like sardines, spilling beer on each other in between bites of churrasco.

I didn’t have a prayer of getting a seat. That’s when I saw Jay.

Jay Liwanag lives 15 miles from me in northern Virginia. About 4,000 miles from home, there was Jay standing in the middle of a Brazilian bar waving at me – and more importantly, with a free seat.

Jay is a youth soccer coach, and is traveling Brazil as part of a trip with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Sitting at the table with Jay and his colleagues, I was entertained by their stories and observations from a week in Natal.

The group watched Brazil’s opening match of the tournament in a mall, which had shut down entirely to take in the game.

“It was incredible,” Jay said. “It was amazing to see how many people there were who were passionate about Brazilian football. The stores all shut down for the match, it was like Fourth of July in America.”

“Something that surprised me was the number of women watching the game together,” Kyle Gracias, another member of Jay’s NSCAA group, added. “You don’t see so many people interested in a match like that in America. Old people, kids, men and women, everyone was watching and knew players and knew the game.”

Brazilians also play the game. Jay and his coaching friends stumbled upon a pick up soccer game on the beach Wednesday, before the rain came.

“The goals were made out of rocks,” Jay said. “We were playing barefoot on the beach, And the players we played against …”

Gracias lifts his head to interject.

“Those kids we played against were really good,” Gracias said. “But it wasn’t just kids, there were older people, too. Everyone plays together, and they play hard.”

The group will leave Natal after the United States plays Ghana, and will travel to Rio de Janeiro to take in the Spain vs. Chile match before leaving for the U.S. By the end of the trip, Gracias hopes to get a picture with a fan from every country.

“I’ve been doing pretty well [in Natal],” Gracias said. “So far, I have about half of [the countries].”

Jay’s goal for the trip appears to have been already met. When he says it, it’s simple. Like the game we’re all taking in. But in that bar, it resonates.

“Playing on the beach was great. We would play when the ball went into the water, or in the dunes, it didn’t matter,” Jay said. “It really was the beautiful game, it reminded me why I love it. Every player should have that experience of playing on a beach in Brazil.”

Maybe more can soon. If the rain ever stops.



If you have flown on a regional jet lately, you know something about US economic ties with Brazil. Many US airlines use Embraer planes, made in San Jose dos Campos, Brazil, for short hauls among US cities. In fact, the US is the second largest destination for Brazilian exports, after China. In addition to aircraft, we buy oil, iron ore and steel, soybeans, and, of course, coffee from Brazil. The value of all goods imported from Brazil exceeded $27 billion in 2013 and the value of imported services reached almost $7 billion in 2012, the last year for which data are available, with business and professional services, royalties and license fees, and tourism leading the way. Of course Brazil is also an important buyer of goods and services produced in the US. Brazil ranks 7th as a destination for US exports, with Brazilians buying some $70 billion worth of goods and services from US producers.

Brazil is also host to a large number of US multinationals. From Bank of America and Cargill to Time Warner, Yahoo and Westinghouse, US investment in Brazil is substantial. Last year alone, some $64 billion dollars of foreign direct investment went to Brazil and about 14 percent of that came from the US. Brazil offers an attractive market for the sale of many manufactured goods and provides access to a wealth of natural resources. Petrobras, the Brazilian national oil company, made the largest oil discovery in the Western Hemisphere some 30 years when it located oil deep in the ocean floor off the Brazilian coast in 2006. This discovery of oil at a depth of some 7,000 meters below sea level has led to a wave of technological innovation and significant interest from US investors. Increasingly, Brazilian firms are investing in the US, too. Gerdau, a leading Brazilian steel maker, has plants in the Midwest. Odebrecht not only builds stadiums for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but arenas, airports, and transportation systems in the US. And Brazilian buyers have become significant players in New York and Florida real estate markets. Trade and investment between Brazil and the US has grown considerably over the last decade, despite the financial crisis and sluggish global economic conditions. With the World Cup on our screens, one can only assume these trends will continue while increasing travel and tourism builds more personal connections.

–Dr. Melissa Birch is an associate professor in the School of Business at the University of Kansas. She focuses on business in Latin America. \



dilma-20120426162234BRASÍLIA — The year was 1970. Agents of Brazil’s military dictatorship had arrested Dilma Rousseff, then a member of a fledgling urban guerrilla group, the Palmares Armed Revolutionary Vanguard. Inside the prison where she was being held in São Paulo, a debate raged among the inmates: Should they support Brazil in that year’s World Cup?

“At that time, many people opposed to the government initially questioned whether we would be strengthening the dictatorship by rooting for Brazil’s team,” Ms. Rousseff, 66, who is now Brazil’s president, said in an interview here on Tuesday. “I had no such dilemma.”

She said resistance dissipated among the jailed guerrillas in the period leading up to Brazil’s victory over Italy in the championship match, which took place in Mexico City.

With Brazil’s government facing widespread discontent over its preparations for the World Cup, Ms. Rousseff made the rare public reference to her imprisonment decades ago, when interrogators tortured her during three years in jail. Sipping orange juice and nibbling on cashews at a spacious circular table in her office, she defended loans from state banks for new stadiums for the soccer tournament and insisted that Brazilians planning to shun the event were a “small minority.”

As the start of this year’s World Cup on June 12 approaches, Ms. Rousseff is grappling with a wave of strikes, a sluggish economy and a presidential race pitting her against rivals who have climbed in public opinion polls. While she is still viewed as a favorite in the October elections, her government has come under criticism over delays in finishing World Cup construction and an array of other stalled public works projects.

A survey released on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with the way things were going in Brazil, up from 55 percent just weeks before huge street protests in June 2013 shook Brazilian cities.

The survey, based on 1,003 face-to-face interviews with Brazilian adults in April, also found that two-thirds said Brazil’s economy was in bad shape, and that 61 percent thought hosting the World Cup was a bad idea because it took resources away from public services, including health care and education.

The glum mood, which follows an economic boom that culminated in 7.5 percent growth in 2010, has been compounded by scandals at Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras, and a multiyear slowdown in economic growth. The economy grew only 0.2 percent in the first quarter of 2014, slower than the 0.4 percent expansion reported in the previous three months.

Still, Ms. Rousseff, a member of the leftist Workers Party that has governed Brazil since 2003, vigorously defended her economic record in an hourlong interview at the presidential palace in the modernist capital, Brasília. She insisted that various measures showed that life had generally improved in Brazil.

Citing antipoverty projects that have pulled millions of people into the middle class over the last decade, she said incomes for poorer Brazilians had risen well above the rate of inflation, making Brazil’s progress in reducing poverty comparable to Spain’s experience after the death in 1975 of the dictator Francisco Franco, which ushered in a transition to democratic government.

Emphasizing that inequality had fallen in Brazil while growing in the United States and parts of Europe, Ms. Rousseff, an economist by training, spoke glowingly of the work of Thomas Piketty, the professor at the Paris School of Economics whose sweeping studies of inequality have gained widespread attention.

“I think he’s done a fantastic job,” Ms. Rousseff said of Mr. Piketty, who has stood by his conclusions about the evolution of wealth inequality after The Financial Times attacked his data.

Ms. Rousseff said that rising incomes in Brazil had created new challenges, reflected in the large demonstrations that have given way to smaller protests, often led by housing activists or anti-establishment groups. She said that many of the protesters’ complaints about the poor quality of services, whether from governments or private companies, were understandable.

“Services grew less than income,” she said, noting as an example the surging access to air travel in Brazil, which has left many travelers fatigued at the mere thought of dealing with the country’s swamped airport infrastructure. Brazil’s larger middle class, she said, has “more desire, more longings, more demands.”

“This forms an intrinsic part of the human being in the society in which we live,” she said. “He obtains something, but he wants more, which is very good.”

Beyond the challenges her government faces before the World Cup, with security forces bracing for a possible return of large-scale protests against spending on the tournament, Ms. Rousseff said the event offered an opportunity to strengthen Brazil’s position on the global stage.

She also said she was prepared for a thaw in relations with the United States, after a souring last year over revelations that the National Security Agency had spied on Ms. Rousseff and her inner circle of senior aides. She noted her plans to meet with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. when he visits Brazil this month to watch the United States soccer team play Ghana.

“I’m certain we can pick up our relations where we left off,” Ms. Rousseff said. She said she was prepared to consider rescheduling a state visit to Washington, which she had postponed in September in response to the N.S.A. revelations.

In other matters, Ms. Rousseff said she expected Brazil to continue raising its diplomatic and economic profile in Latin America and the Caribbean. She singled out Cuba as a country where Brazilian companies were making inroads. “We’re betting much more on a policy of investment than a blockade,” she said, referring to the United States’ trade embargo against Cuba, which began in 1960.

In one example of Brazil’s strengthening ties with Cuba, the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht has carried out a $900 million upgrade of Cuba’s Mariel port. Ms. Rousseff said that overhauling Cuba’s economy required the application of “more market forces, not less.”

Helping Cuba to open its economy also reflects on Brazil’s, and Ms. Rousseff’s, political evolution since military rule ended here in 1985. While Brazil now has a president who was a Marxist guerrilla in her youth, it stands out among its neighbors for a law under which perpetrators of rights abuses during the dictatorship are shielded from prosecution.

Brazil’s highest court has upheld the amnesty law, meaning that Ms. Rousseff’s torturers remain free even as commissions examine the politically motivated crimes of that era.

Ms. Rousseff said that as president, she respected the law, despite her personal views. “I don’t believe in vindictiveness, but I also don’t believe in forgiving,” she said.

“It’s a question of the truth,” she added. “It’s extremely important for Brazil to know what happened, because that will mean it won’t happen again.”

Source: The New York Times

  1. uss

    It’s difficult to analyze the United States’ attack at this summer’s World Cup without first mentioning the biggest name that won’t be in Brazil – Landon Donovan.

    Thousands of articles have been written about his absence, justified or not, since U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann axed the record-setter in all major categories for the Stars and Stripes. That ship has sailed and it’s time to focus on the attacking players that are there. So why bring him up?

    Many have been wondering over the last three U.S. friendlies why, after the most successful year of U.S. Soccer ever in 2013, Klinsmann has decided to abandon the wildly successful 4-2-3-1 in favor of his new, very experimental 4-4-2 ‘diamond’ formation.

    Perhaps the answer lies in Donovan’s omission. Perhaps Klinsmann, making a judgment based on motivation and fitness ahead of proven ability, decided that without Donovan to provide incisive runs from the wing (essential to the success of the 4-2-3-1), two strikers would be needed to penetrate opposing defenses. With a misfiring Jozy Altidore leading the line, wing play is paramount to creating scoring opportunities. With Donovan out of the picture, 18-year old Julian Green still too wet behind the ears to know his own quality, Brek Shea being a shell of his former self in Dallas, and youngsters like Josh Gatt simply too raw for the big stage, it’s highly likely that Klinsmann has adjusted to the cards he feels he’s been dealt.

    Consider the success of Bayern Munich’s 2012-13 treble winners. Target striker Mario Mandzukic is a wonderful talent, but hardly the type of scorer to lead a team to European glory on his own. He was fortified and complemented by a cast of high intensity, attack-minded wingers in Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller. No team can rely on a single striker for success – the key is in the wingers making runs off the solo striker, while also being able to create and produce with the space created by said wingers.

    While Klinsmann has downplayed his formation switch by simply stating that, “We have at least two or three systems,” it stands to reason that he’s adjusted his philosophy after so much success in 2013 based on the personnel at his disposal (which of course he selected).

    And while the new ‘diamond’ is certainly a more attack-minded setup, it does leave the defense more exposed without the two-man pivot of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones in front of the back four. Perhaps it’s Klinsmann’s new thinking that the best defense is a strong offense.

    At the very least Klismann can look forward to having an in-form captain leading the line alongside Altidore in Seattle Sounders man Clint Dempsey. After a rather tumultuous departure from Tottenham and a less than stellar start back in MLS last season, Dempsey began the 2014 season on fire – perfect timing ahead of the world’s biggest sporting event. Dempsey has all the tools to be a star in Brazil, but will be an even bigger threat if Altidore finds his wings again.

    While no one questions the hard work that Altidore puts into a match, the production has been, to put it mildly, lacking. The Sunderland forward has not scored a goal since December as his club barely avoided relegation in England. But the former New York Red Bull product tends to be a very different player with the United States, and he’ll need to be if the team has any chance of advancing to the knockout stage.

    The pair is almost certainly already penciled in as the one-two punch to lead the U.S. line against Ghana, Portugal and Germany. Klinsmann will be hoping that each front man is on top of his respective game – for Altidore that includes strong holdup play with his back to goal and industrious flick-ons to spring Dempsey, a master of picking up the ball on the run from midfield and finding the back of the net. But that won’t be enough from Altidore. He’ll also need to re-find his scoring touch which might just be kickstarted with a strong aerial game off corners and free kicks.

    Waiting in the wings for the U.S. will be Icelandic-American Aron Johannsson and San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski. Johannsson has followed in Altidore’s footsteps with AZ Alkmaar in Holland by leading the team in goals a year after Jozy did the same before his Wearside move. ‘Bacon,’ as he is affectionately known, is a creative striker with 1 v 1 capabilities and little fear going at a defender with the slightest hint of space. He is patient and allows the ball to do much of the work for him, but also possesses good vision in tight spaces that makes him a very serviceable supplier of the ball as well.

    Wondolowski is just the opposite. He’s an instinctual goal scorer with tireless movement off the ball. He has a nose for goal but his game relies on the service of his teammates more than any other striker in Klinsmann’s employ. The big question regarding Wondo is if he can get the job done against the likes of Ghana and Germany, and not just Belize and Cuba.

    Of course the U.S. strikers will be far from effective if the team’s midfielders don’t supply them with quality service. Klinsmann has bet the farm on ‘chalk on the boots’ wide men Graham Zusi, Alejandro Bedoya and Brad Davis. Of the three, Bedoya is the most incisive and willing to take players on, but in Klinsmann’s new system, he will have to stay disciplined and pick and choose his spots to bust into the 18-yard box. In contrast, Zusi and Davis are fantastic deliverers of the ball from wide positions, and more importantly, can do it well on the run. Fitness will be a major factor though as the two will have loads of defensive work to sort out against the level of opposition in Group G, and they’ll be fighting the scorching heat.

    Normally tying this new formation together would be a classic No. 10 in the middle, but that’s not what Klinsmann has in store. The only true attacking central midfielder on the roster is Norwegian-born Mix Diskerud, and while he’ll certainly see some minutes in Brazil, Klinsmann is putting all his stock in transforming Bradley from a top-class box-to-box midfielder (his role at Roma, Chievo and Moenchengladbach) into a far more attacking one (more like his role with Heerenveen and now TFC). It’s no secret that Bradley is currently the most likely U.S. player to leave Brazil a major star, but it will be a daunting task for him to adjust his instincts to play much farther back and relinquish that control to either  Jones or Kyle Beckerman. It does the U.S. little good to have a No. 10 that’s always dropping behind the halfway line to retrieve the ball and then push forward. However, if he can adjust mentally and harness his vision to focus on the final third, there’s no reason to doubt his superior quality can’t shine through.

    Klinsmann is relying on it.

    In truth though, the United States will live and die by the success of its back four at this World Cup. It doesn’t matter if the Yanks score two goals in every match if the opposition is putting in three or four. But a back line can thrive and its game be lifted when the offense does its part and gives it a cushion to work with. And if the U.S. attack does its job, while also working hard to track back and help out its defense, there’s no reason to feel that advancing to the second round is impossible.