One of the things that the international press has harped on ever since Brazil was chosen to host the World Cup is the possibility of violence and chaos during the games. It serves as a handy peg to any story about crime, or one like today's football match fight that left three with serious injuries.
But the truth is that the most likely scenario is that during the month-long event, Brazil will find itself in a state of exception. It's not just that the country will likely grind to a halt during games, or even for the better part of a month. It's not just at the games themselves, which will have alcohol but no noisemakers. And it's not just para inglês ver; it's also because the Brazilian government has committed through agreements with FIFA and a federal law to change how the country works during the Cup.
Violence: First, while petty crime is inevitable in any major city in the world, widespread violence is unlikely, given that the army will be brought in to cities as it normally is during large events. In fact, it's possible some cities may see less crime than usual during the Cup. During Rio's 2007 Pan American Games, for example, some of the calmest days of the year took place during the sporting event. There are even murmurings that during the Pan-Am Games, for example, that the Rio government made an agreement with drug traffickers to keep the peace during the event. The armed forces are also planning on using serious technology with everything from anti-aircraft missile systems to drones during the games.
That said, the possibility of protests is high. Protest-organizing committees are already being set up in host cities, and some Facebook events for protests are already scheduled. Protests in Rio will be even more likely if the mayor follows through with bus fare increases in 2014, as he said he would this week--even though these hikes helped spur this year's demonstrations. FIFA is of course concerned about this, and has pledged to donate $20 million and try to raise up to $100 million to fund Brazilian social projects, in a bid to gain some good will and address some of protesters' concerns. But the likelihood that visiting spectators or tourists will be injured during protests is low, unless they purposely jump into the middle of the fray; inconvenience is a greater possibility, such as encountering traffic or delays in getting in and out of stadiums.
Justice: Another important change during the Cup will be the establishment of special courts, similar to ones set up in South Africa in 2010. Known as tribunais de exceção, they will allegedly be used to crack down on petty criminals, and seem likely to be used to try those accused of violence or vandalism during protests. On one hand, the courts could be a much speedier solution to Brazil's backlogged and notoriously slow judicial system, but on the other, could result in the violation of rights or wrongful imprisonments.
According to one legal expert, these courts are unconstitutional, and like in South Africa, could be used to try those accused of FIFA copyright infringement or ticket scalping. "[T]he bread and circus [atmosphere] that reigns in Brazil during the World Cup constitutes the perfect scenario to install a totalitarian and external legal order, capable of the gravest violations of rights, not just of Brazilians, but foreigners, too," writes Judge Alexandre Morais da Rosa.
Law of the Land: Brazil's World Cup Law, signed by President Dilma Rousseff in 2012, forms the legal framework for this exceptional atmosphere. The law does everything from changing school calendars and declaring national holidays during the Games to establishing strict rules around FIFA copyright. One part creates commercial exclusion zones around stadiums, just like in South Africa. With vast amounts of informal workers--A Pública estimates there are around 60,000 ambulant vendors in Rio and nearly 160,000 in São Paulo--Brazil's cities are unlikely to benefit from this rule. But Brazilians are creative, and even during the Confederations Cup there were reports of vendors getting into the exclusion zones. Also, given how common pirated goods are, the possibility of small-scale vendors getting punished for infringing FIFA copyright--and then getting tried at the special courts--is worrisome.
Finally, because the Brazilian government signed agreements with FIFA to host the games, new revelations may arise about exactly what restrictions the organization has demanded. The Tribuna da Bahia reported earlier this year that the city of Salvador would not allow the traditional festa junina celebrations in 2014, as FIFA had asked the government to ban events taking place during the World Cup.
Image: Blog do Planalto / Flickr.