The World Cup goes on, and so does lawmaking – a few controversial bills being discussed during the competition

July 7

Members of the opposition fear that Mexicans are "distracted" by the World Cup. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images).

Selling alcoholic beverages has been forbidden in sport stadiums in Brazil since 2003. On May 9, a day after the Brazilian government met with FIFA authorities and a few days before the World Cup began, the Congress of Brazil approved a bill nicknamed the “Budweiser law” that removed the alcohol ban.

The government said that this was a “temporary” regulation to comply with all the requirements asked by FIFA for the South American country to host the competition. Considered a second-tier sponsor, Budweiser - together with Castrol, Continental, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's, Moy Park, Oi, Yingli - paid $524 million to FIFA, the Associated Press reported.

Unlike the Brazilian case, in which regulations were changed in compliance with the World Cup organizers, other countries have been debating policies over the past weeks, at the same time their national teams play.

In Mexico, senators are discussing a series of regulations called the secondary laws of an energy reform of the Mexican constitution approved last December. Before this law, Mexico had one of the most closed energy regimes in the world, Forbes reported, with a 75-year monopoly of the state-run company Pemex.

Now that this single-provider system is over and that opportunities are open for private competition and foreign investment, lawmakers are deciding the details of the law, which is considered by The Economist as one of the most important ones pushed by President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Whereas members of the opposition said that the government is “playing dirty” by discussing the future of the energy sector while Mexican people are “distracted” watching soccer, the government said that passing this bill is “urgent,” adding that it doesn’t make any sense to postpone it.

“The energy reform depends on the FIFA calendar,” said legislator Fidel Robles Guadarrama from the opposition party Partido del Trabajo. “It is a pity that (the Mexican government) is trying to cheat on Mexicans, which proves that the public opinion is against the secondary laws measures.”

The president of the Senate, David Penchyna, one of the bill's main supporters, replied: “The country can’t stop because of a soccer tournament. There is nothing distracting (in discussing the bill right now), we believe in a responsible and mature citizenship, like the Mexican is.”

According to a survey published in Newsweek, Mexicans have mixed feelings about the bill, and their opinions are evolving over time, depending on a wide variety of factors like public opinion, gas prices and overall energy costs. The latest study carried out earlier this year show that half of the interviewees thought the reform was a bad idea.


Mobile phone providers are urging Costa Rica government to pass a bill soon (Julio Munoz, EPA)

In Costa Rica, another controversial bill is on the agenda. A day after Costa Rica's soccer team tied England, President Luis Guillermo Solís had a meeting with representatives from the main mobile phone operators, who are urging the government to pass a bill to charge users per download instead of speed.

Mobile phone companies say that 5 percent of their clients are using the service so much that they are causing delays to other customers. So those who use more have to pay more, they said. Consumer associations think that this is a way for companies to increase fees. Operators are insisting on passing the regulation over the following weeks.

In Chile, a major tax policy was announced by President Michelle Bachelet minutes after the country was defeated by Holland. The Congress just approved a tax that makes companies pay more than individual contributors, and the bill still needs to be passed by the Senate.

With this new system, the president aims to finance long-sought education reform to provide state-run, public schools. Sectors who oppose the measure, like Sen. Juan Antonio Coloma, said that what the government is actually doing is increasing taxes. This is the biggest tax hike change in the past 200 years in Chile, Bloomberg reported.

But Latin America is not the only region where controversial laws are being defined during the World Cup. In Nigeria, a cashless policy was just announced by the Central Bank, Nigeria’s Premium Times published. This reglamentation puts a cap on daily transactions, charging a fee to those who exceed this limit.


Players from Nigeria are afraid of their salaries not being paid after the World Cup (Michael Sohn, AP)

This regulation was to have begun July 1 but it will be in force in a year's time, because authorities decided to grant a waiver for users to get used to it. Historically, Nigeria has been a cash-based economy, and officials aim to reduce the use of cash with this measure.

The discussions over cash not only affect Nigerian citizens but also World Cup players. One of the biggest concerns the national team expressed was whether they would have enough funding to make it to the competition, The Vanguard said. Sports minister Bolaji Abdullahi promised players they would get the budget to travel and they did, but now they fear they won’t get paid after the tournament is over, the BBC said.

In Europe, Germans were concerned about rumors of a bill that would lift the ban on fracking, a controversial natural gas extraction method, Der Spiegel said. Fearing that the regulation would be passed closed doors during the World Cup, 300,000 citizens signed a petition by the organization Campact! to prevent this from happening.

The news Web site Suddeutsche said the federal government had no intention of passing such a ban: “Even in the face of parliamentary procedures, it would be hardly possible to bring a law during a World Cup by cabinet and parliament, and certainly not so close to the summer break,” the site said.

In other places, the World Cup meant a new look at long-lasting conflicts. In Colombia, recently re-elected President Juan Manuel Santos said that the priority for his government is to conduct peace negotiations with leftist FARC. Reporters from the news portal La Silla Vacía said that the national team victory against Japan contributed to an overall “optimistic” vibe in Colombian society.

The president himself sent the national team a congratulatory note in which he said winning the game “lift us up, boosts out adrenaline and optimism.”

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