Rio de Janeiro deployed 11,000 security officers to safeguard tonight’s Confederations Cup final after more than three weeks of protests and a record drop in President Dilma Rousseff’s popularity.
Protesters marched toward the city’s iconic Maracana stadium this afternoon, where police used teargas to disperse a group of about 1,000, a spokesman for Rio’s military police said. Inside the stadium, Brazil and world champion Spain are vying for the Confederation Cup in a dry run for next year’s World Cup. “There won’t be a Cup,” some protestors chanted.
The two-week tournament has been magnifying demands for better public services as Brazil spends 30 billion reais ($13.4 billion) on stadiums and related projects to host the 2014 soccer event. The approval rating of Rousseff’s administration has fallen to 30 percent from 57 percent in a June 9 poll and a high of 65 percent in March, according to a Datafolha poll published yesterday.
While Brazil has pulled millions out of poverty in the past decade, its new middle class is demanding more, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in an interview today.
“If you lift your people out of extreme poverty, it’s not like they’re going to say ’great, now we’re all set we don’t want anything else.”
About 200 people demanding deeper cuts in bus fares are camping inside the municipal council building in Belo Horizonte, the capital city of Minas Gerais state with 2.4 million residents, Globo News TV said today.
Bus-fare cuts will cost Sao Paulo, the country’s biggest city, about 200 million reais in 2013 as the metropolis finds itself “insolvent,” Mayor Fernando Haddad said in interview published on Folha de S.Paulo’s website today.
Any further tax incentive the federal government may need to cut the cost of public transportation, such as tax breaks on diesel used by buses, will have to be followed by cost cuts or a new tax to balance public accounts, Finance Minister Guido Mantega told O Globo newspaper in an interview.
Yesterday in downtown Sao Paulo, police blocked roads for a “March for Jesus,” Marco Feliciano, the head of the congressional commission on human rights, posted on his Twitter page from the event. Gay rights activists held protests in the city June 21 against a proposal approved by the commission to let psychologists recommend mental treatment for homosexuality.
Eight out of 10 Brazilians said they support the protests, according to the Datafolha survey of 4,717 people in 196 cities on June 27-28. Brazilians who say Rousseff’s management of the economy is good fell to 27 percent, from 49 percent, according to the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo told the daily Folha that Rousseff is “calm” about her drop in popularity and the government will keep working to reverse the slide in approval ratings. A ministry official declined to comment.
In response to the unrest, Rousseff on June 24 pledged another 50 billion reais for urban transportation after meeting with leaders of the protest group Passe Livre.
By Tuesday she will present Congress with a request to call a plebiscite on measures to make Brazil’s electoral system more representative and less susceptible to corruption. Proposals will include issues such as campaign financing, Education Minister Aloizio Mercadante said on June 28.
In the Datafolha survey released yesterday, 68 percent of those surveyed said they support the plebescite proposal.
Rousseff, who has struggled to stay ahead of the protests after being jeered at the tournament’s opening match June 15 in Brasilia, didn’t include today’s soccer cup final on her official agenda e-mailed by the presidential press office last night.
FIFA’s Confederations Cup has been dubbed the “Demonstrations Cup” in placards and chants as protesters criticize money spent on stadiums in a nation where 21 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
Protests have taken place ahead of almost every match, sometimes turning violent.
A group led by Odebrecht SA, Brazil’s largest builder, offered to pay 5.5 million reais annually to Rio’s state government to manage the near 79,000-seat Maracana, which reopened this month after a three-year, $500 million renovation.
Billionaire Eike Batista, who holds a minority stake in the group has also been the focus of criticism. Batista’s joint venture with IMG Worldwide Inc. first pitched the state on leasing the facility and then was hired to carry out the financial viability study. Batista is also a friend of Rio Governor Sergio Cabral, himself a target of the anti-corruption movement that’s swept across the country.
During the closing ceremony before the game, two people appeared from under football-shaped umbrellas and briefly unfurled a banner that said ’‘Immediately Cancel the Privatization of the Maracana” before being apprehended by security.
IMX, when asked about protesters’ charges that the privatization process lacked transparency, responded in an e-mailed statement that it had followed all laws. Consorcio Maracana SA declined to comment, referring questions to the state government, which said the leasing process has concluded.
To contact the reporters on this story: Blake Schmidt in Sao Paulo at firstname.lastname@example.org; David Biller in Rio de Janeiro at email@example.com; Tariq Panja in Rio de Janeiro at firstname.lastname@example.org
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