As the opening ceremony of the World Cup took place yesterday, riot police outside the Árena de Corinthians were administering heavy-handed treatment to protesters, drawing criticism from Amnesty International. Inside the stadium, as kick-off approached, President Dilma Rousseff was booed, something that continued throughout the match. The same thing happened in Brasilía last year at the opening match of the Confederations Cup but this time it was nastier –– a recurrent chant was ‘Ei, Dilma, vai tomar no cu!’ (‘Hey, Dilma, fuck you!’ or, more literally, ‘Hey, Dilma, go take it up the arse’) and it has been replicated with a hashtag on social networks. There has been a lot of vitriol directed her way of late, much of it unabashedly misogynistic –– she has been called ‘mal comida’ (sour bitch), ‘sapatão’ (dyke), ‘vagabundo’ (tramp). Even many of her critics have baulked at the language used against her.
Those inside the stadium though are not quite the same people protesting on the streets –– they would need to be seriously hypocritical leftists if they were. As veteran football journalist Juca Kfouri said on ESPN’s Linha de Passe after the game, they were São Paulo’s white elite, who never felt any need to boo or insult successive right-wing leaders who rocked up to sporting events –– he named, in particular, former São Paulo governor Paulo Maluf, a man dripping with corruption allegations but who has never even faced charges in Brazil, but is wanted in the US for conspiracy and criminal possession. Kfouri said that the stadium volunteers he spoke to were visibly upset at the abuse directed at the president –– a hint that many of those were, unlike those able to afford to pay their way in, were not white. Looking at footage of the chanting, it is safe to say that those in the stadium were not very representative of Brazil’s social and racial make-up.
Kfouri was also damning of the referee and said Croatia were robbed –– of Fred, who went down under Dejan Lovren’s slightest touch, he gave him “5 out of 10 as a centre-forward [surely charitable], 8 as an actor, so 6.5 overall”. There was plenty of support for Kfouri from Brazilians on Twitter, many of whom called the booing a disgrace. Others pointed out he was part of the very same white Paulista elite and that ESPN had nobody but whites on their panel that evening too. Another criticism of him was of being ‘caviar left’, though that is more in line with the shriller criticism of Rousseff’s government, from right-wingers who call it ‘totalitarian’ and ‘communist.’
Rousseff is certainly not blameless. Her government has not handled the protests very well and has been a little too eager to please FIFA (though not near as much as the ANC in South Africa four years ago). The protests against her on the streets though have little to do with the well-heeled Paulistas who booed her yesterday though. It is more from the middle classes who are feeling the pinch of heavy inflation brought about by rapid economic growth and by a high cost of living. Lower down the social scale, her government remains solidly popular, as more and more people are pulled out of poverty and the middle class is expanded. She faces re-election in October later this year and, the protests notwithstanding, she stands to be returned comfortably. People on lower incomes are happy with low unemployment and the tangible anti-poverty measures the successive Workers’ Party governments have implemented. The Brazilian bourgeoisie is beginning to bridle a bit but it is unlikely to rise up in a manner similar to Venezuela, Bolivia or Ecuador. For the moment, boos and insults at expensive sporting events is the only weapon they have.
Posted by Oliver Farry