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Protests

Tens of thousands in Brazil protest against Confederations Cup

Tens of thousands of demonstrators turned out across Brazil, protesting the billions of dollars spent on international sports events. Some of the demonstrations have turned violent, and more are planned.

In Belo Horizonte an estimated 20,000 people turned out for a peaceful demonstration before Monday’s Confederations Cup match between Tahiti and Nigeria.

Police patrolled the area, where earlier in the day demonstrators had erected barricades of burning tires on a nearby highway.

Police said of 6,000 protesters had gathered in central Rio, while in Brasilia, several hundred people marched toward the National Congress blocking the main avenue and more than 200 of them climbed onto the roof of building, chanting and waving banners.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, an estimated 30,000 people marched toward the main Paulista Avenue on Monday, but there was no fresh violence unlike last week when protests started there, triggering a police crackdown.

The protests were triggered by a ten cent hike in public transport fees, just days before the opening of the Confederations Cup. The soccer tournament brings together eight national teams from around the world in six Brazilian host cities, and is seen as a rehearsal for the World Cup next year.

Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo has warned that that authorities would not allow the protests to disrupt the international football tournaments.

"The government assumed the responsibility and the honor to stage these two international events and will do so, ensuring the security and integrity of the fans and tourists," Rebelo said.

The unrest last week quickly spread from Sao Paolo to several other cities, where people are angry that the government is spending 15 billion (11 billion euros) on the Confederations Cup and the World Cup alone.

They want the money to go into health care and quality education instead.

The protesters, who are mostly middle-class youths, are also upset over the police crackdown in Rio, Brasilia and Sao Paulo, where more than 230 people were briefly detained and about 100 injured last week.

According to the daily O Globo newsaper, more protests have been scheduled in 44 cities over the next four days.

The unrest comes as Brazil experienced a disappointing 0.6 percent growth in the first quarter of this year, while inflation in May was at over 6 percent, with the gap between rich and poor continually widening.

As a result of the economic difficulties, an increasing tax burden and corruption allegations, opinion polls show that the support for President Dilma Rousseff is waning.

The Confederations Cup ends on June 30. But Brazil is also preparing for a visit by the Pope next month and for the Summer Olympic Games 2016.

rg/jr (AP, AFP)