Anti-president calls compete with cup

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DILMA-CUPBRASILIA, June 14- Brazil’s attention may be on the World Cup, but the profanity-laced jeers shouted at President Dilma Rousseff during the first game put a harsh spotlight on the country’s political divide.

Star forward Neymar’s two-goal performance in Thursday’s 3-1 victory over Croatia shared front-page headlines with the insults Rousseff endured from thousands of people in the stadium.

Minutes before kickoff, sections of the crowd of more than 62,000 people chanted “Hey Dilma!” followed by a crude sexual taunt as she sat next to a dozen world leaders.

It was an embarrassing moment as the much-contested tournament finally got under way following waves of protests over the record $11 billion spent to host the event.

Rousseff, who is up for re-election in October, responded Friday that she would not waver in the face of such opposition.

“I won’t let verbal aggressions bother me,” she said. “I won’t be intimidated by insults that children and families shouldn’t be hearing.”

Although obscene chants are common in Brazilian football stadiums, the leftist leader said the insults were not a reflection of the rest of the country.

“The Brazilian people don’t act like this. They don’t think like this, they don’t feel the way expressed in those insults. The Brazilian people are civilized, extremely generous and polite,” she said.

The jeers, which also targeted world football governing body FIFA, were condemned by political and sports commentators as well as a good number of Brazilians on Twitter.

“The curse-laced insult was a lack of respect that showed how the public debate in Brazil has degenerated and radicalized,” said CBN radio commentator Kennedy Alencar.

The leftist leader had made a low-key entrance to the Corinthians Arena and sat next to FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Neither made the traditional World Cup opening speech, perhaps in response to the jeers they endured when they spoke at the start of last year’s protest-marred Confederations Cup.

– ‘Time bomb’ –

Andre Cesar, a political analyst with the Prospectiva consultancy, said the social and political radicalization “is very bad for democracy.”

“This is a scenario that began in the protests last year and will continue until the elections,” he told AFP.

Cesar said Rousseff’s two main rivals in the upcoming elections, social democrat Aecio Neves and socialist Eduardo Campos, would have also faced taunts had they attended the game.

But Neves told reporters that Rousseff “reaped what she sowed these past years” by governing “with arrogance and her back turned to society.”

Even former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who left office with high popular ratings in 2010, skipped the opening game despite being the one who secured the World Cup.

“When he got the World Cup for Brazil in 2007, president Lula didn’t calculate that things would be different seven years later” and Brazilians would turn against the Cup, said sports commentator Juca Kfouri.

“This bomb exploded in his successor’s hands,” he said.

Kfouri said the insults came from upper-middle-class Brazilians who could afford the tickets and happen to be the most critical of Rousseff’s Workers’ Party.

Despite the protests and falling poll numbers, Rousseff remains the favorite to win the October election.

A recent survey by pollsters Ibope put her in the lead at 38 percent, down from 40 percent a month earlier, compared to 22 percent for Neves and 13 percent for Campos.

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