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The World Cup soccer tournament begins today in Brazil. The host country, perhaps the most devoted in the world to the sport, is in turmoil.
Brazilians are divided on whether their government should be spending an estimated $11 billion to host this year’s World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics instead of addressing basic, immediate needs. There have been violent demonstrations in Brazil’s major cities, as well as labor strikes aimed at making the host country uncomfortable for the thousands of international visitors who are attending the soccer matches.
Brazil’s infamous slums are home to violence among their inhabitants and security forces. Some of their problems could be alleviated by greater government attention to education, health care, housing, and public infrastructure.
Yet Brazil has achieved respectable economic growth in recent years. Its president, Dilma Rousseff, and her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, have shown sensitivity to the country’s poor.
Brazilians appear prepared to postpone resolving their differences until after the party. They love soccer, and its premier event is starting. Their behavior will make or break this year’s World Cup. Time to smile and be good hosts.