Brazil’s Rousseff May Skip Cup Final as Her Popularity Sinks

Brazil President Dilma Rousseff may sit out today’s Confederations Cup final match after the biggest plunge in popularity since ex-President Fernando Collor confiscated savings accounts in 1990, as protesters take to the streets for a fourth week.

Rousseff’s approval rating fell to 30 percent, down from 57 percent before protests began three weeks ago and a high of 65 percent in March, according to a survey by Datafolha published yesterday in the daily newspaper Folha.

In Rio de Janeiro, about 5,000 protesters marched toward the city’s iconic Maracana stadium, where Brazil and world champion Spain vie for the Confederation Cup in a dry run for next year’s World Cup,the G1 website said. 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.

A march that at least 18,000 people signed up to attend on Facebook will be joined by protesters taking aim at billionaire Eike Batista, who holds a minority stake in a group that was awarded last month a 35-year contract to operate Maracana. The final match at the stadium is slated to start at 7 p.m. local time.

‘Rigged’ Auction

“The game was rigged from the start, and we knew who was going to win” the stadium auction, Renato Consentino, a leader of the Popular Committee for the World Cup and Olympics, one of the organizers of the protest, said in an interview in Rio.

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 to heed protests 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 implement 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.

Broad Support

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.

Political Reform

In response to the unrest, Rousseff called on June 24 for a referendum on political reform and pledged another 50 billion reais for urban transportation after meeting with leaders of the protest group Passe Livre. In the Datafolha survey released yesterday, 68 percent of those surveyed said they support the referendum 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. Estado earlier reported she wouldn’t attend.

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.

Overpass Death

In Belo Horizonte, a 21-year-old died of head injuries June 27 after falling from an overpass as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on a crowd of 50,000 outside the stadium where a semifinal match was taking place.

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.

While Batista’s IMX has just a 5 percent stake, it’s been the focus of criticism because the company, a 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.

IMX, when asked about protesters’ charges that the privatization process lacked transparency, responded in an e-mailed statement that it has followed all laws. Consorcio Maracana SA declined to comment, referring questions to the state government, which said the leasing process has concluded.

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