Friday, June 20, 2014

The Ball Rolls in a Different Direction

Image by Pumbaa80, on Wikimedia Commons
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff appeared  on national television to defend the World Cup against the principal critiques from protesters, that the money spent on the mega-event should have been used for education and health care, among other needs. She  said public resources for the tournament stadiums amounted to R$8 billion (US$3.6 billion), while national, state, and local investments in education and health care from 2010, the year stadium construction began, through 2013 amounted to R$1.7 trillion (US$76.2 billion), or 212 times as much.

Michael Amaro, a programmer from Itaborái, a municipality in greater Rio, was unconvinced. "The government spent R$1.3 trillion on health care and education and it’s still as bad as it is? It’s not 10% as efficient as it should be," he said.  -from NotiSur, June 20, 2014

Chances are most of the fans of fútbol in the United States who are watching the 2014 FIFA World Cup associate the event with the great play on the field, especially the Latin American teams.  Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica have played especially well, and Mexico scored some points with the fans back home by earning a tie with the host country Brazil (one of the favorites to win the tournament). Brazilian fans are somewhat disappointed with their team's performance, but the host country remains in good shape to advance to the next round, as does its chief rival and neighbor Argentina.

Outside of its soccer fortunes, Brazil has earned mixed marks when it comes to organizing the event.  The South American country was late with completion of many of its sports venues, and there were numerous complaints that some of the infrastructure that caters to tourists was subpar. And yet, the actual games have been well organized, so the image that Brazil is presenting to the world on balance appears to be positive.

For ordinary Brazilians, there are also mixed feelings. The intense pride in their team is unmistaken, with many Brazilians wearing green and gold and blue on the streets and in the dozen or so venues where the games are being played. But there is discontent below the surface. In his article in NotiSur entitled "World Cup Begins with Diminished Protests, Increased Security, and Debates Over Legacy," Gregory Scruggs discusses how many ordinary Brazilians continue to protest the government's decision to spend money on the World Cup instead of devoting resources to education, health care and other social services.  Read More

Also in LADB this week...
Across the continent in Chile, President Michelle Bachelet has been very busy during her first three months in office. The center-left leader has already submitted a bill to overhaul the national tax system and another to do away with Chile’s much-maligned parliamentary election rules, and she has proposed a handful of education reforms. In May, she traveled to Argentina. The month before, she coordinated responses to not one, but two natural disasters: a powerful April 1 earthquake in the north followed two weeks later by a devastating firestorm in the port city of Valparaíso. 

Another newly installed president is Salvador Sánchez Cerén, El Salvador’s first "guerrilla" president, Sánchez Cerén takes over a a deeply divided country that is facing a resurgence of crime.  Crime is also major topic in the other article in NotiCen, which examines the increase in the increasing deaths of journalists in Honduras.  In SourceMex, we review the decision of state-run oil company PEMEX to sell off most of its shares in Spanish oil company Repsol and the ongoing efforts in Mexico to address gun-related violence (A recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court might help).

-Carlos Navarro
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