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People gather during a protest against the upcoming FIFA tournament in Rio de Janeiro on May 15. Brazil faced a test of its security preparations for the World Cup on Thursday as demonstrators disgusted at the tournament’s price tag called widespread protests.
Protests, strikes hit Brazil four weeks from World Cup FBI aiding Brazilian police in WC challenge

SAO PAULO, May 16, (AFP): 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 kicks off.
A total of 10,000 people took to the streets in Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Manaus, Porto Alegre, Rio 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 will 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 teargas 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 300 meters (yards) from the stadium as they slammed a “World Cup without the people.”
Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, at the forefront of efforts to win the country’s hosting rights seven years ago, criticized the “virulent” protests.
Many protesters vented their ire against world football 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 disgrace” and “Hey, FIFA, pay my fare” read some of the banners.
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.”
Carlos Serrano, 32, told AFP: “I love soccer but beyond that there are other more important problems — the right to transport, health, education.”
Pedro Amarildo, 50, agreed.
“At first we thought it (the Cup) would benefit the people but it’s not turned out that way and that is why the people are unhappy,” he said in the capital Brasilia.
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.
Brazil has spent more than $11 billion to organize the World Cup, money protesters say could have been better spent on areas such as transport, education, housing and health care.
The protests have shrunk in numbers since they embarrassed Brazil’s leaders last year by disrupting the Confederations Cup, a World Cup warmup tournament, but have also grown more radical.
Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said there was “no reason for any panic” and denied the protests and strikes had anything to do with the World Cup.
Teachers, metalworkers and metro employees held separate protests in Sao Paulo.
Demonstrators blocked some of the main roads around the city and caused traffic jams of up to 150 kms (90 miles), according to transport officials.
Protest movements issued calls on social media for some 50 demonstrations in at least 10 of the 12 World Cup host cities.
Adding to the concern was a move by federal police to consider a nationwide strike during the World Cup. Federal police officers oversee border security and immigration services and the strike threat comes with an estimated 600,000 foreign fans about to descend on the country.
Meanwhile, Brazilian police compared notes with US law enforcement officers here Thursday as they geared up for a mammoth security operation at next month’s World Cup.
With fresh protests against the tournament rippling across Brazil, a gun-toting shock battalion of Rio military police held a mock crowd control drill complete with helicopter and fake tear gas.
Military police Colonel Andre Vidal said input for US advisers had been useful as Brazil prepares to drape a 170,000-strong World Cup security blanket across the June 12-July 13 tournament.
“We will not be changing our modus operandi for the World Cup,” Vidal stressed, while adding information-sharing was a useful means of determining “how to act in the best way possible” during the World Cup.
“This is an exchange of experiences to learn from different countries,” said Vidal. The Brazilians have also studied riot policing techniques in European countries including Spain and Germany.
Vidal reiterated that peaceful protests against the cost of the World Cup would be tolerated provided they did erupt into violence.
“Demonstrations are permitted in Brazil, but what is not permitted is civil disturbances,” the colonel told reporters in Rio.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation agents present declined to comment.
In March, the Brazilians oversaw a week-long training session with FBI agents in the city of Belo Horizonte, covering topics such as organized crime, peacekeeping techniques and respecting marchers’ human rights.
Brazil’s branch of Amnesty International this week expressed concern that a planned crackdown on protests may comprise human rights such as freedom of expression.
“Protesting is not a crime, it is a human right,” said Amnesty’s Brazil director Atila Roque.
The Brazilian senate is due to vote on proposals to pass a law making public “disorder” a crime.
But Amnesty fears the move could criminalize people simply attending a protest.

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