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Brazilians greet Rio tourists with signs: ‘Welcome to Hell’

The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro begin Aug. 5 and nothing seems to be going right for the host country.

Between the Zika virus, a cratering economy, a historic corruption scandal, a nearly impeached president, public unrest, police brutality, and major construction and cleanup delays, you might have expected Brazil to surrender and pass the global event, hot potato-like, to another country.

But no. Brazil is soldiering along, mustering every last resource to ensure a smooth tournament.

While the government’s PR efforts may be calming tourists, it’s not doing much to appease Brazilian citizens.

In fact, many Brazilians are furious with how things are going —and they’re sparing no energy to make their outrage known.

Disgruntled public employees in Rio, including emergency service workers and the police, are arriving at airports with banners reading “Welcome to Hell.” Along boulevards, passersby can spot graffiti that reads “Welcome to Hell.” In front of government buildings, the same message can be seen.

Rio’s governor declared a state of “financial calamity” last month that could lead to “total collapse in public security, health, education, transport and environmental management.” The move was intended to unlock federal funds to float the city through the Games. But that doesn’t seem to happening.

The public employees aren’t getting their paychecks and they see it as just the latest example of the government prioritizing the summer games over the people.

So they're refusing to do their jobs.

It’s an odd and ominous set of events. If the state wants to ensure a safe and enjoyable Olympics, why are emergency personnel being driven to protest? Aren’t these the very workers that can ensure an orderly tournament? And isn’t this precisely the type of unrest that threatens to undermine the potential tourist bonanza?

Two years ago, Brazil hosted the World Cup and earned the ire of the people by displacing whole communities, heavy-handedly developing properties and sucking money out of public projects to support the event.

This time onlookers were expecting a more sensible approach that respected the rights of the people.

“Welcome to Hell” is not an encouraging sign that this is happening.