Report: Rousseff to skip FIFA Congress
SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil President Dilma Rousseff will not attend Tuesday's formal opening of the FIFA Congress, a meeting of the world football body's 209 members, the Sao Paulo newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo reported Monday.
The head of state or head of government traditionally addresses the meeting.
The newspaper cited unnamed sources at the presidential palaces.
FIFA has criticized Brazil over the last few years for delays in building World Cup stadiums and related road and airport projects.
Rousseff is running for re-election in October, and lavish spending on the World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics is unpopular with many in the country. Many Brazilians resent FIFA for making financial demands, though it pays few taxes in the country.
The paper said Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo would replace Rousseff who has promised — despite poor preparations — that this will be the "Cup of Cups."
In another sign of the disquiet surrounding the World Cup, neither Rousseff nor FIFA President Sepp Blatter will speak at Thursday's opening match in Sao Paulo between Brazil and Croatia. They were jeered at the opening of the Confederations Cup a year ago.
FIFA's general secretary Jerome Valcke angered Brazilians two years ago when he said the country needed a "kick in the backside" to get construction moving.
Brazil is spending about $11.5 billion on the World Cup, about $4 billion of it to build or renovate 12 stadiums. Four of those are expected to become white elephants.
The lavish spending became a target of protests at the Confederations Cup — a warm-up for the World Cup. Daily demonstrations were met with tear gas and rubber bullets, and tear gas wafted into the Maracana stadium in Rio during the final between Brazil and defending World Cup champion Spain.
Brazil is deploying almost 200,000 soldiers and police around the country this time, bracing for more demonstrations with many citizens lukewarm about the tournament, and similarly aprehenisive about spending on the 2016 Olympic in Rio de Janeiro.
Spending there has reached $17 billion — a mix of public and private money — with the costs sure to rise.
Rousseff is still the favorite for re-election, but her poll numbers are falling. A recent Pew survey found 61 percent of Brazilians opposed to holding the World Cup.