Striking subway workers clashed with police in Sao Paulo, snarling traffic for a fifth day as South America’s largest city prepares for the World Cup’s opening match on June 12.
Three of the city’s five subway lines were partially shut down, including the station at the Arena Corinthians, the venue of the inaugural game, the Metro train operator said. Police used tear gas to disperse crowds and detained 13 protesters, according to a labor union statement and a city police spokesman who requested not to be named citing internal policies. Traffic jams snarled up 179 kilometers (110 miles) of the city’s roads.
Delays and cost overruns during preparations have made the majority of people in this soccer-crazed nation turn skeptical of hosting the world’s most-watched sports events, polls show. Criticism of misspending on the World Cup has reinforced discontent over slow economic growth and above-target inflation and helped erode the popularity of President Dilma Rousseff in the run-up to October’s presidential election.
The first game of the World Cup will take place in Sao Paulo this week, when Brazil takes on Croatia. Most fans rely on public transport to get to the venue.
In the past month, professions from teachers to police officers have walked off the job demanding pay rises. Subway workers in Rio de Janeiro are also threatening to walk off their jobs to demand better pay and improved working conditions, according to the union’s website.
The Sao Paulo subway employees want Rousseff to help restart negotiations with the local government over their demand for a 12.2 percent pay increase, according to a union statement published on Sunday. The government, which fired 60 subway workers today, offered an 8.7 percent raise. A court yesterday ordered workers to end the strike and said fines would be applied. Homeless groups and students joined the protests in Sao Paulo.
About 60 percent of Brazilians oppose hosting the World Cup because it diverts money away from public services, according to a Pew Research survey released June 3. Dissatisfaction with “things in Brazil today” rose to 72 percent, according to the survey, which polled 1,003 people from April 10-30 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
Rousseff’s lead over opposition candidate Aecio Neves narrowed to 17 percentage points in a May 7-8 Datafolha poll from 28 points in February. She was supported by 37 percent in the May poll, which had a two percentage-point margin of error. That wouldn’t be enough for her to win in the Oct. 5 first round, where a candidate must have more votes than all others combined.
Brazilian consumer prices rose 0.46 percent in May from the previous month, above economists’ forecast for a 0.38 percent increase, the national statistics agency said June 6. Annual inflation quickened to 6.37 percent, the fastest pace since June. The central bank targets inflation of 4.5 percent, plus or minus two percentage points.
The economy expanded 0.2 percent in the first quarter, down from a revised 0.4 percent expansion recorded during the last three months of 2013. While agriculture increased 3.6 percent in the quarter, investment fell 2.1 percent.