Sat, May 17, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Anti-World Cup protests, strikes hit Brazilian cities

‘CUP OF DEATH’:Thousands of protesters took to the streets to voice their anger over money being spent on stadiums, instead of on healthcare and infrastructure

AFP, SAO PAULO

Brazil faced a test of its security preparations for the World Cup on Thursday as demonstrators aghast at the cost of the event joined protests and strikes in several major cities.

Ongoing work stoppages by police and teachers, and the threat of a nationwide strike by federal police, also raised fears of chaos with just four weeks to go before the Cup is due to start.

A total of 10,000 people took to the streets in Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Manaus, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, according to police.

In business hub Sao Paulo, about 5,000 members of the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) set fire to car tires and marched to the Corinthians Arena, which is to host the opening match between Brazil and Croatia on June 12.

Protesters also surrounded buses full of passengers and smashed the glass of vehicles at a car dealership that is an official FIFA sponsor.

Police used tear gas against the masked demonstrators, dispersing the march into small groups.

At least 20 protesters were arrested in Sao Paulo, according to police. Local media said at least two photographers suffered minor injuries.

In both Rio and the capital, Brasilia, police used pepper spray to disperse small groups as the major protests winded down.

In the northeastern city of Recife, youths earlier took advantage of a partial strike by military police to loot stores and go on the rampage. A total of 170 people were arrested there over two days.

After blocking off several streets, Sao Paulo protesters held a rally about 300m from the stadium as they slammed a “World Cup without the people.”

Many protesters vented their ire against world soccer body FIFA, viewed by many as only concerned with its own interests.

“FIFA go home to Switzerland,” “Total tax exemption for FIFA and [Cup] sponsors,” “Cup of death” and “Hey, FIFA, pay my fare,” some of the banners read.

In Rio, one masked protester surrounded by hooded black-bloc radicals ostensibly burned a World Cup stickers book, while marchers bore banners reading “Money for the Cup — none for salaries.”

“I love soccer, but beyond that there are other more important problems — the right to transport, health, education,” said Carlos Serrano, 32.

Back in Sao Paulo, MTST leader Guilherme Boulos threatened new protests during the World Cup if Brazil’s leaders do not address the demands of people such as the 1,500 families who have occupied a plot of land near the stadium. Calling for public money to be spent on affordable housing instead of on stadiums, the families have baptized their new slum the “People’s Cup.”

“The clock is ticking: They have 28 days to resolve not only the People’s Cup, but all the occupations that are fighting this. If it’s not resolved, there will be problems,” Boulos told journalists.

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