Brazil World Cup projects ‘41% done’ as strikes hit

Anadolu Agency

SAO PAULO – Just 41% of projects promised by the Brazilian government for the World Cup tournament are complete as the final 30-day countdown to the tournament begins, a report said on Tuesday.

Brazil’s Folha de S.Paulo newspaper said it had checked all 167 World Cup projects announced by the government in 2010 and found that just 68 were ready.

A further 88 projects are unfinished or will be left until after the key football tournament. Eleven have been abandoned altogether, the newspaper said.

The Ministry of Sport, however, disagreed.

“No project has been abandoned by the Federal Government,” the ministry said in a statement. “Projects that have not been completed by the World Cup will be delivered.”

Despite government promises that investment would bequeath a World Cup legacy that would improve Brazilians’ daily lives, the report suggests urban mobility is the area most neglected, with just 10 percent of that work completed in the 12 cities hosting the tournament’s 64 matches.

Among the worst affected are Curitiba, Fortaleza and Cuiabá, where a light railway linking the airport and the center is far from completion. Airports and bus terminals have seen some of the worst setbacks.

A new terminal in São Paulo was opened last week at its main international airport, Guarulhos, but with a slew of teething problems that will see most airlines continue to use their previous terminals for at least the duration of the World Cup.

With airports bearing much of the criticisms, Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Authority has unveiled new rules whereby airlines will be fined heavily for missed takeoff and landing slots to help deal with the increased number of aircraft during the tournament.

World Cup leverage for strikes

The government has highlighted bureaucracy and design modifications as the main source of delays.

Conscious of the pressure the government is under amid the media focus for the tournament, a range of public service workers have upped the ante and called strikes in recent days and weeks, using the World Cup as leverage for their cause.

A 48-hour strike called by bus drivers and conductors in Rio de Janeiro left the 2 million local people who depend on buses for their daily commute struggling to get to work and school Tuesday, with only 10% of buses running during the morning rush hour.

Local media reported that over 70 buses had been vandalised since the walkout took effect at midnight local time. Workers are demanding better conditions and a 40 percent increase in basic pay.

Targeting tourists?

A separate 48-hour strike also saw employees at 13 Brazilian embassies and consulates across North America and Europe halt work, hampering leisure and business travelers who require visas to travel to Brazil.

Staff at other embassies were said to be considering join the paralysation, but the Ministry of External Affairs said the stoppage would not affect visas. Striking staff disagree.

The embassy staff complain that a law guaranteeing pay rises in real terms, which some say has not been the case for as long as eight years, has been stuck in Congress since 2011.

Holding the strike so close to the World Cup, they say, was a last resort to attempt to force the government’s hand:

“It was the only way we could get the attention of the Brazilian public and the international press,” a member of staff at the Brazilian embassy in London told the Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.

“We require immediate pay rises to match the current working and living conditions where the Brazilian government has its embassies and consulates.”

Most Europeans can enter Brazil without a visa as tourists but U.S. citizens do require a visa, and stoppages in New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta are expected to hit American tourists hardest.

Some 600,000 overseas tourists are expected to make the trip to Brazil for the World Cup.

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