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Football Versus Freedom

NEW YORK – Last year, Brazilian authorities were taken by surprise when a wave of protests erupted during the Confederations Cup soccer tournament, a sort of warm-up to this year’s main event, the World Cup, which will be staged in 12 cities across the country beginning in June. The protesters, complaining that the $11 billion spent on new stadiums and other World Cup-related infrastructure would be better invested in improving Brazil’s poor public services, were met with official violence. And yet the protests have continued throughout the year.

Not surprisingly, soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, and the World Cup’s corporate sponsors are worried – so worried that they and Brazilian government officials are planning carefully for protests during the month-long tournament. Worse, a raft of proposed security legislation would almost certainly restrict freedom of assembly.