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Brazil is spending billions on the World Cup, but how are the country's poor managing? | Deseret News National
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Silvia Izquierdo, Associated Press
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Brazil is spending billions on the World Cup, but how are the country's poor managing?

With the World Cup just a few weeks away, the spotlight on Brazil is growing wide enough to shine on the state of the nation's poor amid billions of spending in preparation for the FIFA games. Brazilian artist Paulo Ito has brought global attention to poverty in Brazil with a stirring mural on a schoolhouse in Sao Paulo.

Slate reports that the mural has "become an international sensation, drawing huge attention on Facebook." The mural portrays a shirtless, crying child holding a fork and knife at a table with only a soccer ball on his plate.

"The portrait is so simple and evocative that you don’t need to know much about Brazil to wrap your head around it. All you have to understand is that despite massive gains made over the past decade, poverty levels are still appallingly high, and the World Cup is costing the nation billions of dollars that could be spent elsewhere," Slate reporter Jeremy Stahl writes.

"Recent figures state that Brazil is spending about $11 billion overall on the World Cup and $4 billion alone on 12 new and refurbished stadiums," NBC Sports reported.

So what does poverty in Brazil really look like?

According to data from the World Bank, nearly 16 percent of Brazilians live below the country's poverty line. That number has been halved in the last 10 years, but it still means around 31 million people are living on less than $1.25 per day.

Anger at spending for the World Cup isn't new, as Brazilians have been protesting the government's spending for months. And public support is declining, according to the BBC.

"In 2008, a poll by the Datafolha Agency in the widely respected Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper showed 79% support for the World Cup in Brazil. By April of this year another poll by the same agency showed this had fallen to 48%. Many people are more reluctant to associate themselves with a competition that has become a public relations disaster," BBC's Tim Vickery writes.

The L.A. Times reported this month that the Brazilian government will increase welfare payments and after protests over a bus fare increase, the government responded quickly by canceling the fare increase. The Brazilian government is also aiming to improve the health care system, according to Slate.

Artist Paolo Ito told Slate his mural wasn't meant as an attack on the Brazilian president, but "a broader criticism of Brazilian society," he said. And that the "government’s response has been largely cosmetic. He mentioned two Brazilian aphorisms: tapar o sol com a peneira and leis para inglês ver. The first means to 'cover the sun with the sieve.' The second can be translated as 'just for show for the English.’ ”

Amy McDonald hails from sunny St. George and is a graduate of BYU where she studied journalism, American studies and international development. She has written for the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah Valley magazine and loves backpacking.