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Advocates Keep Focus On Issues Outside World Cup Stadiums


We've been hearing a lot about what's been happening on the field in Brazil during this World Cup, but advocacy groups say what's been happening outside of the stadiums has been worrisome. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Sao Paulo reports on what the World Cup has really cost Brazil.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: What happened in Belo Horizente on the field far overshadowed what took off of it. Brazil was defeated by Germany 7 to 1, the worst showing ever by Brazil in a World Cup game, but only days earlier in the same city this was the scene when an overpass that was still under construction collapsed on a bus. Two people were killed and over 20 injured.

CHRISTOPHER GAFFNEY: Yeah, I mean, it's that these things do happen but they happen with more frequency in rushed circumstances.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Christopher Gaffney is a visiting professor at Rio de Janeiro's Federal Fluminense University. The overpass was part of the vastly delayed infrastructure works associated with the World Cup. When Brazil was awarded the tournament, 56 projects were promised but fewer than 10 were completed in time. There was a last-minute push to get things done here.

GAFFNEY: We have special contracting processes, we have projects that didn't go sort democratic process, we have companies that are major campaign-finance donators that are getting these projects and constructing things easily with very little oversight.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In all the World Couple cost Brazil at least $11 billion. Wags have noted that's $1 billion for every goal Brazil scored during the games. The bill for that will be coming due. Many local governments borrowed heavily to finance the road bridges and transportation networks. Already, opposition lawmakers in the congress here are calling for an investigation into World Cup financing. But it's not just the money, even though the protests have been small during the World Cup, they have been violently repressed say human rights groups.

MARIA LAURA CANINEU: It shouldn't give a license to public authorities to just do whatever they want without following the rule of law.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Maria Laura Canineu from Human Rights Watch in Brazil. The group recently called for an investigation into allegations that security officials planted evidence on two protesters. The pair are also being held without charge for longer than the legal limit of 15 days. Two human rights lawyers taken into custody during a separate parties claim they were beaten by police.

CANINEU: These few incidents that happened recently I think they are indications that the rule of law has not been followed the way should.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The actions of local governments during the World Cup too have been coming under criticism. In the state of Sao Paulo and law would outlaw the use of mass protests and require all public gatherings of any sort to notify police has been passed by the state Congress. It's waiting for the governor’s approval. Its waiting for the governor’s approval. Flavio Siqueira is a lawyer at the Conectas Human Rights organization

FLAVIO SIQUERIA: (Speaking Portuguese).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says there was no public debate there were no public audiences. This law was forwarded the governor in the dead of night and passed through three internal committees he says and was voted on the same date which is rare he says. Both the police and the politicians say the tactics aren't necessary to curb the violence and vandalism that often accompany the demonstrations. But Christopher Gaffney says everyone's eyes have been on the games to the detriment of human rights here.

GAFFNEY: When the circus is going on you can use as an opportunity to pursue other agendas and I think that has been happening in political and economic realms and certainly as well as public security.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Sao Paulo

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.