Sao Paulo Disrupted by Subway Strike Ahead of World Cup

Strikes by subway workers and transit police who are pressing for salary increases disrupted traffic in Brazil’s largest city today just seven days before Sao Paulo hosts the opening match of soccer’s World Cup.

Three of the city’s subway lines were operating below capacity with most of the stations closed because of the strike, the Sao Paulo Metro said on its website. A separate walkout by transit police contributed to congestion. Traffic was snarled along a record 186 kilometers this morning and at least one metro station was vandalized, Estado do Sao Paulo reported on its website.

Last night the Landless Workers Movement organized a 12,000-strong protest near the city’s soccer stadium to protest World Cup spending, and the group plans to continue demonstrating ahead of the event, Agencia Brasil reported.

In the past month public servants including teachers, bus drivers and police have held work stoppages across the country to press for better salaries and benefits at a time Brazil is preparing to host the most-watched sports event. While labor protests are frequent in Brazil, a resurgence of unrest ahead of the month-long tournament threatens to further erode President Dilma Rousseff’s support before elections in October.

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.

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