Tear gas a reminder of the inequality of daily life
Published 02/07/2014 | 02:30
A very enjoyable sojourn in Fortaleza over the weekend culminated in tear gas and rubber bullets.
I had travelled to the heat of the north for the Netherlands-Mexico game on Sunday and in the hours before my departure on Monday, a new energy took hold of the area.
As football fans and tourists enjoyed the sunshine, some 200 construction workers marched through one of Fortaleza's main streets. A truck, decked out with speakers, was surrounded by men who are looking for improved salaries, healthcare and other basic requirements.
A local journalist, Antonio, told me: "These men work in filthy, filthy conditions." Things escalated. The protestors threw rocks. The police fired tear gas and rubber bullets.
For the guts of 15 minutes, the centre of Fortaleza was not a fun place to be. One man was injured, hit on the hand by a rubber bullet. Antonio told me five workers were injured the previous week.
Eventually things settled down. The police watched from afar as speeches were made in the main square. Then the workers got back on their buses.
It was a reminder that amidst the fanfare of this festival, huge swathes of the country are fighting desperately against the ubiquitous inequality on show. Some $11bn (€8.3bn) spent on a 30-day tournament, which these men can only hope to watch on television, must be a bitter pill to swallow.