A national security force will be deployed to five of Brazil’s major cities to ensure the Confederations Cup football tournament is not disrupted by the widespread protests that have swept the country.
A quarter of a million demonstrators are believed to have taken part in demonstrations in dozens of cities, which began against bus fare increases but ballooned to include many popular grievances.
Among the concerns is the lack of investment in public services when set against the billions being spent on next year’s World Cup, political corruption and police brutality in putting down the protests.
The national force, which is used to quell social unrest, will be sent to Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Fortaleza and Brasilia, all cities that are hosting matches in the Confederations Cup. The eight-team tournament, in which the champions of each continent compete against each other, is traditionally seen as a warm-up for next year’s World Cup.
In a statement, the Ministry of Justice said: “The officers will strengthen security at the Confederations Cup games, as planned in the security plan for large events.”
More than 60 people were arrested after the sixth night of largely peaceful protests drew an estimated 50,000 demonstrators to Sao Paulo on Tuesday.
Police were forced to take shelter inside the office of Sao Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad as a crowd gathered outside, throwing stones and trying to break into the building.
Since the protests began earlier this month, police have used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds, which have also targeted the National Congress in the capital Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro’s legislative assembly. But in recent days they have taken a less aggressive approach.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff – herself a former leftist rebel who was tortured by Brazil’s military regime –and her staff were again facing a balancing act in how to respond.
Her chief of staff, Gilberto Carvalho, told a congressional hearing: “It would be pretentious to say we understand what’s going on. If we are not sensitive we’ll be caught on the wrong side of history.”
In a statement on her blog, the President herself said: “The voices of the street want more citizenship, health, transport, opportunities. My government wants to broaden access to education and health, understands that the demands of the people change.”
MS Rousseff – who faces re-election next year – is also said to have met with her predecessor and political mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the governors of major states.
More protests were expected to take place today with the movement organising a demonstration in Rio de Janeiro while Spain play Tahiti at the city’s Maracana stadium.
Meanwhile, at least seven cities have announced their intention to lower the 20-centavos (six pence) rise in bus fares, which initially sparked the protests.