Major Strikes Hit Brazil just 28 Days Before World Cup
Protesters disgusted at the price tag of the World Cup called for demonstrations across Brazil on Thursday, trying to regain the momentum that disrupted the Confederations Cup a year ago. Ongoing strikes by police and teachers and the threat of a nationwide strike by federal police also raised fears of chaos with 28 days to go until the World Cup.
In business hub Sao Paulo, about 5,000 members of the Homeless Workers' Movement (MTST) set fire to car tires and marched towards the Corinthians Arena stadium, which will host the World Cup opening match between Brazil and Croatia on June 12. Around 200 metalworkers also held a protest against unemployment outside a factory in the south of the city.
Several hundred demonstrators blocked a nearby street demanding housing, and hundreds of others barricaded a road leading from the Osasco suburb into the city, Globo TV reported.
Several movements took to social media calling for protests in at least 10 of the 12 World Cup host cities on issues ranging from poverty to concerns over human rights. One of the groups calling for protests was the Free Pass Movement (MPL), a student group whose demand for free public transport helped spark million-strong street protests last year that embarrassed Brazil during the Confederations Cup, a World Cup warm-up tournament. The movement said it hoped to gather 15,000 people in the streets of Sao Paulo.
In Rio de Janeiro, where the World Cup final will be played on July 13, anarchist group Black Bloc and hacker group Anonymous were also helping organize protests. Anonymous hacked the official website of Sao Paulo's World Cup organizing committee the evening before and put up the slogan "Without rights there will be no World Cup."
Brazil has spent more than $11 billion to organize the World Cup, money protesters say could have been better spent on pressing needs in areas such as transport, education and health care.
The protests have shrunk in numbers recently but have also grown more radical. Thursday's demonstrations will be a test of both the movements' momentum and the police's ability to contain them.
Brazil is also facing strikes by teachers and by military police in host city Recife. Rio bus drivers trashed 708 buses in three days of strikes that ended Wednesday, and federal police are also threatening a nationwide strike during the World Cup.