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Rousseff Misses Brazil Soccer Victory as Approval Plummets

Rousseff Misses Brazil Soccer Victory as Approval Plummets
Protesters clash with riot squad officers on a street near Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on June 30, 2013, a few hours before the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup football tournament between Brazil and Spain. Photographer: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

President Dilma Rousseff was absent when Brazil won the soccer Confederations Cup in Rio de Janeiro today after her popularity plunged to a record low following three weeks of protests.

Brazil beat world champion Spain 3-0 in a dry run for next year’s World Cup, while Rousseff remained in the capital Brasilia, according to her press office. Before the game, protestors marched to the city’s iconic Maracana stadium, where police used teargas to disperse a group of about 1,000, a spokesman for Rio’s military police said.

The two-week tournament has magnified demands for better public services as Brazil spends 30 billion reais ($13.4 billion) on stadiums and related projects to host the 2014 World Cup. The protests have sent the approval rating of Rousseff’s administration to 30 percent, according to a Datafolha poll published yesterday, from 57 percent earlier this month and a high of 65 percent in March. 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,” Kim said.

Cutting Costs

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.

Brazilians who say Rousseff’s management of the economy is good fell to 27 percent, from 49 percent, according to the poll, which interviewed 4,717 people in 196 cities on June 27-28 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Keeping Calm

Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo told the daily Folha de Sao Paulo 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 plebiscite proposal.

Rousseff, who was jeered at the tournament’s opening match June 15 in Brasilia, garnered 29 percent of voter intention for the October 2014 presidential election, ahead of former environment minister Marina Silva with 18 percent, Datafolha showed. Senator Aecio Neves of the opposition PSDB party has 15 percent and is tied in third place with Supreme Court Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa, who has taken a tough stance against corruption and says he has no intention of running for the country’s top job.

‘Demonstrations Cup’

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.

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 treatment for homosexuality.

Eight out of 10 Brazilians said they support the protests, according to the Datafolha survey.

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