Brazilian Police Break Up a Protest

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RIO DE JANEIRO -- Security forces on Sunday night fired rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd of protesters to break up a demonstration near the Maracanã stadium, even as spectators inside the 77,000-seat arena watched Brazil's national soccer team play against Spain.

The tumult starkly pointed out the festering tension here around public spending on lavish stadium projects. It also marred the opening of the championship game of the Confederations Cup, a soccer tournament viewed as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup, which Brazil is set to host in 2014. Several times during the game, fans cheered Brazil's 3-0 rout of Spain even as the odor of tear gas wafted into the stadium.

Protests venting rage against Brazil's political establishment have rattled the nation in recent weeks, with many demonstrators lashing out at corruption, deplorable schools and hospitals and costly World Cup preparations.

"The investment for the World Cup is absurd," said João Pinheiro, 38, a pharmacy manager who was on hand to watch the game. "The complaint of the protesters is not Brazilian soccer, but the expenditures. I support them."

Thousands of demonstrators gathered peacefully near the stadium on Sunday afternoon in a first wave of protest, holding signs reflecting an array of political and social grievances.

"Maré resists," read one placard, referring to a favela, or slum, here that was the site of a gun battle in June involving the police in which at least nine people died. Another sign, "Get out, Eike," expressed anger at Eike Batista, a billionaire with a stake in the venture that obtained the concession to operate Maracanã over the next three decades.

"We just want the people to be seen and heard," said Gustavo Bueno, 47, a publicist who was among a group of protesters who stood with their backs to the police to ask other demonstrators to respect a security cordon and avoid conflict.

Later, however, a small group of protesters threw rocks in the direction of police officers, and at least six people were wounded in the fracas, according to Brazilian news media reports.

Although the protests here on Sunday were much smaller than they had been earlier in June, Brazil's political leaders remained on alert. President Dilma Rousseff, whose approval ratings have fallen sharply in recent weeks, opted not to attend the game. She and Joseph S. Blatter, the president of FIFA, soccer's governing body, were booed at another game earlier in the month.

Taylor Barnes contributed reporting.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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