SÃO PAULO – With just days until the 2014 FIFA World Cup kickoff in Brazil, concerns are growing over whether the tournament will be marred by protests, further damaging the country’s already tarnished image, or whether the “Land of Football” will come together to support the world’s biggest football event.
SÃO PAULO – Saturday’s anti-World Cup protest in São Paulo, the latest to be held under the #nãovaitercopa (“There Won’t Be A World Cup”) banner, might not have had the crowds of Thursday’s march led by the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST), but it seemed to herald a change in tactics for the group and other protest movements: coordinating calls with the public sector for a general strike to disrupt the event and pressure the government.
SÃO PAULO – Thousands of people have vented their anger over World Cup spending at a protest in the centre of São Paulo on Thursday evening, and demanded that the government free up funds for housing for the poor.
The protest was led by the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) and allied groups, and also included anti-World Cup and leftist political factions. Police said around 5,000 people took part, but organisers put the number at 32,000.
“The ball is now in the people’s, the workers’ court,” an MTST leader, Guilherme Boulos, said in a closing speech to the protest march, which ended on São Paulo’s famous Ponte Estaiada.
SÃO PAULO – A string of protests against the World Cup and strikes by teachers, military police and other public workers across Brazil have brought thousands of people onto the streets on Thursday.
Protests were held in multiple locations in and around São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, where police said around 4,000 people had taken part in the early demonstrations, most of which were organised by the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) and affiliated groups.
SÃO PAULO – Brazil’s police forces have stocked up on supplies of nonlethal weapons ahead of the World Cup, which begins in a month’s time, the G1 news portal reported on Monday.
Police have bought and stockpiled thousands of extra stun grenades, tear gas canisters and rubber bullets in case of a repetition of violent protests seen during the Confederations Cup in 2013.
SÃO PAULO – Around 500 people took to the streets of São Paulo on Tuesday evening in the latest of a series of anti-World Cup protests under the Não Vai Ter Copa (There Won’t Be a World Cup) banner.
There were no major incidents, although three protesters were detained after being found in possession of knives. Military police and riot troops outnumbered protesters greatly.
See photos from the 6th World Cup protest in São Paulo
Police called in reinforcements in favelas (slum areas) in the north of Rio de Janeiro earlier on Wednesday, despite the area having been previously ‘pacified’ as part of the city’s policy of ridding poorer communities of armed criminal gangs and integrating them into the wider city.
Military police have ramped up their presence in the Complexo do Alemão (see photo gallery), a sprawl of favelas in the north of the city, after unrest in the area on Tuesday, which included a protest by residents following the arrest of two young men on Monday.
Police say the pair had arrest warrants issued against them for drugs charges, but around 100 residents took to the streets to protest, defending their innocence. Police used non-lethal force – including tear gas and pepper spray – to disperse crowds, and are now investing whether there were criminal factions behind the protests.
Local media reports that, during the unrest, at least on man took out a gun and fired into the air, and a group of ‘activists’ threatened to set fire to a fuel tanker being used a barricade along with burning tyres and trash cans, further increasing the tension.
Later on Tuesday, the Nova Brasília Police Pacification Unit (UPP) – part of the Complexo do Alemão – came under attack in what appears to be a reprisal, and police battled gunmen into the favela. Investigations are ongoing to establish who the gunmen were.
On Wednesday both military and civil police forces searched vehicles in the favela complex, including those from the local UPP.
Rio’s 38th UPP
Meanwhile, in the west of Rio, police are preparing for the city’s newest UPP in Vila Kennedy – the 38th of the forty UPPs that Rio security secretary José Beltrame announced in 2011, and only the second in the west of the city.
The city has traditionally prioritised areas frequented by tourists and close to new sporting venues, but is now reaching areas located further away from the center.
Police previously announced they would occupy Vila Kennedy, planned for tomorrow (Thursday), due to the high levels of violence seen in the area: 29,372 cases were registered in 2013 alone – up over seven percent on the previous year.
Local media say the region is now calm afte criminals set to be flushed from the area shot at electricity transformers, leaving parts of the district without power. The wider area has since seen a significantly-increased police presence.
Correspondents say that although some UPPs have been successful in bringing greater security to favela communities, there is often still an overwhelming sense of distrust on both sides and armed battles have occurred sporadically.
Some 22 percent of Rio’s population, estimated to be around 7 million people, live in favela communities.
Police, which have faced running battles with armed gangs engaged in both drugs and arms trafficking, have been accused of brutality against local residents – and the notorious case of favela resident Amarildo Dias da Souza, who disappeared from the city’s largest favela, Rocinha, in July 2013, remains fresh in the minds of Rio’s poorer communities.
Investigators say, along with drugs gangs in the area, the main suspects in the bricklayer’s disappearance – and suspected torture and murder – remain police officers from the local UPP.
Extended version of article written for Anadolu Agency
FIFA President Joseph Blatter confirmed on Tuesday that the format of this year’s World Cup opening match will be altered and that neither he, nor Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, will be making opening remarks.
“We’re going to do the ceremony in such a way so as not to have speeches,” the FIFA chief told German news agency dpa.
The opening game on 12 June between host nation Brazil and Croatia is set to be held at São Paulo’s Arena Corinthians, better known as the Itaquerão.
The decision appears to have been made to avoid a repeat of humiliating scenes at the Confederations Cup opener last year, when President Rousseff was jeered by crowds in Brasília, home to Brazil’s most expensive new stadium.
At the time, Blatter asked football fans to show respect, but the admonishment had the opposite effect and crowds booed even louder.
Commentators note that both he and South African President Jacob Zuma did give opening speeches at the first games of the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg.
However last year’s incident in Brazil occurred just as the biggest protests to be seen in a generation were beginning.
Originally sparked by an increase in bus fares in São Paulo, eventually over a million Brazilians took to the streets in anti-government and anti-World Cup demonstrations.
More protests to come?
Blatter said he did not believe there would be protests in Brazil during the World Cup as the situation had “calmed down”.
“I’m convinced the social protests will not be able to use the same arguments that were used at the Confederations Cup, as they are not valid,” the FIFA president said.
However, anti-World Cup protests have continued, and social media sites, such as Facebook, have protest events listed for this week, next month and indeed the World Cup itself.
Last year demonstrators took to the streets in their thousands throughout the Confederations Cup tournament in over 300 cities across the country – including all twelve cities that will host World Cup fixtures this year.
Cells of anarchists have been witnessed at the heart of virtually all protests to date, and clashes with police and vandalism have often accompanied the demonstrations.
Although now considerably lower both in terms of frequency and attendance, protesters have continued to vent their anger at the World Cup’s R$33 billion (US$14 billion) price tag, in a country where infrastructure and public services remain poor and underfunded, despite government pledges of extra cash in the wake of last year’s mass protests.
On Tuesday the Brazilian government said it would set up a task force to counter record disapproval in the country’s hosting of the World Cup and convince the population that the public investments would have a positive, long-term legacy – leaning particularly on additional revenue from a boost to tourism both this year and in the future.
Although the potential for protests has been a headache for FIFA, the stadiums have caused greater concern: just three months before kick-off and three stadiums, including the opening venue in São Paulo, have yet to be finished.
However, Blatter put his faith in Brazil’s ability to get everything ready on time, telling dpa on Tuesday that the “stadiums will work”:
“This isn’t my first World Cup.”
Story written for Anadolu Agency