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The Actual Brazil World Cup Scandal Isn’t About Thongs

6:21 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Demonstrators in Recife, Brazil, fill the streets in the mass protests that erupted across the country last June in response to massive spending to host the World Cup. Controversies have continued over the construction. (Semilla Luz / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Originally published at In These Times

The 2014 Brazil World Cup made big headlines again this week after a controversial Adidas promotional campaign that the country’s tourist board says suggests that Brazil is a lascivious pit of sexual debauchery. As part of the elite club of mega-sporting event host nations, the “emerging” economic powerhouse of Brazil is understandably concerned about its public image and was quick to condemn the thong-shaped t-shirt logos. But officials of this rising star of Latin America seem noticeably less concerned about a touchier scandal buried beneath the pageantry: systematic human rights abuses and labor exploitation.

In recent months, several workers have died on construction sites for stadiums and other huge infrastructure projects designed to accommodate this summer’s football extravaganza, and in the lead-up to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

In early February, Portuguese technician Antônio José Pita Martins died in a crane accident while working on the construction of the Arena da Amazônia football stadium in the steamy city of Manaus, the largest metropolis in the Amazon basin. The death came after two other construction worker fatalities in the same area in December: Marcleudo de Melo Ferreira, 22, plunged 115 feet to his death from the stadium rooftop. Around the same time, another worker at a nearby convention center site died of a heart attack, reportedly linked to overwork, since workers were being pressed to keep up with the scheduled construction timetable. In November, two others were killed when a crane fell at the Corinthians arena in São Paulo, which will host the World Cup’s opening match.

The fatalities, as well as other labor disputes, have led to work stoppages and threats of strikes, which have further disrupted the already-behind-schedule construction timetable and exacerbated the deadline pressure from the World Cup governing authority FIFA. The possibility of another strike was raised earlier this month after the death of Martins. Read the rest of this entry →

Qatar’s World Cup Spectacle Brought to You by Slavery

6:10 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Migrants laboring in Qatar. Most are underpaid and face torture or abuse. (Photo by WBUR/ Flickr)

Originally published at In These Times

The big controversies surrounding Qatar as the site of the 2022 World Cup have been the shady bidding process and fears that the desert heat will ruin the soccer games. But in the past few days, the spotlight has finally begun to move to longstanding concerns over the treatment of the migrant workers who will be building the physical infrastructure for the sporting bonanza.

Throughout the summer, according to an investigation by Amnesty International [PDF] released this week, the future site of the sporting spectacle became a death trap for the Asian workers brought in by Qatar and its booming construction industry to work on the building sites of the planned World Cup facilities, including commercial areas and transportation infrastructure.

Amnesty found that the workers were encamped in sweltering heat, fell from precarious heights and suffered heart failure under the strenuous labor conditions. One Nepalese official described the entire system of indenture as an “open prison,” according to Der Spiegel. In light of dozens of reported deaths, union activists predict that up to 4,000 may die on the sites between now and the 2022 games.

Through interviews with the World Cup construction workers, the Amnesty investigators gathered horrific stories of an array of abuses, including “not being paid for six or nine months; not being able to get out of the country; not having enough—or any—food; and being housed in very poor accommodation with poor sanitation, or no electricity.”

Workers testified that migrants were frequently forced to work for poverty-level wages or sometimes none at all. Often, they said, employers confiscated their identification documents, effectively holding them hostage out of fear of being detained for lacking papers. Read the rest of this entry →

Qatar Launches Into 2022 World Cup on Backs of Abused Migrants

12:44 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

(Cocoate.com / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Originally posted at In These Times

Qatar sits like an oasis of hypertrophic capitalism amid a landscape barren in all respects except for its oil reserves. The emirate sustains itself by pumping out vast fossil fuel resources while importing human ones, in the form of legions of migrant workers from Bangladesh, Nepal and other Global South countries.

Labor activists say this fierce imbalance between the elite and the laboring underclass is headed for catastrophe as the country prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The event, and the massive infrastructure projects it will involve, will magnify Qatar’s international prestige as an ultra-modern kingdom, but labor and human rights activists say the country is neither ready nor willing to align its regressive labor practices with its ultra-modern development agenda.

An investigation by Equal Times, a publication supported by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), documents patterns of employers and labor agencies cheating workers, deceiving them into exploitative jobs in unsafe and precarious conditions.

As with many other wealthy Gulf countries, Equal Times reports, Qatar’s economy displays stunning inequalities:

Read the rest of this entry →