Confederations Cup final marred by violent clashes between protesters and riot police after Brazil beat Spain 3-0 in Rio

Officers quickly quashed the unrest, unleashing a barrage of tear gas canisters
  • @adamwithnall

Violent protests at the Confederations Cup final in Rio de Janeiro saw police using stun grenades and tear gas to combat Molotov cocktails, rocks and powerful fireworks outside Brazil’s famous Maracana stadium.

More than 5,000 anti-government demonstrators gathered ahead of the match, which is supposed to be an international showcase of what to expect from the country ahead of the World Cup in 2014.

As Brazil beat world champions Spain 3-0, government officials including President Dilma Rousseff chose to stay away. Rousseff, standing alongside Fifa president Sepp Blatter, was booed at the opening game of the tournament two weeks ago.

Footballing legend Pele also decided not to attend the match, after he spoke out last week telling protesters to concentrate on supporting their team and urged them to “forget all this commotion”.

Riot police clashed with demonstrators about 30 minutes before kick-off, and they succeeded in first preventing them from gaining access to the stadium and then in scattering the crowd altogether.

The violence came as part of the wave of protests that has spread across the country in recent weeks. National newspaper Estado de S Paulo reported on Sunday that 490 protests had taken place in Brazil in the last three weeks, peaking on 20 June when more than one million people took to the streets.

What started out as anger against an increase in fares for public transport has escalated into wide-reaching criticisms of perceived government ineptitude and corruption, poor education and health care, and specifically the cost of hosting major sporting events like the World Cup next year and the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

President Rousseff has suffered the brunt of the political damage. The first national poll conducted after the protests ignited showed a steep drop in her approval rating and throws in doubt what had seemed an easy re-election next year.

“People are angry with Congress, angry with the terrible hospitals and worse schools,” said Tania Nobrega, a 56-year-old psychologist protesting near the Maracana.

“But they don't want Dilma's head. People are sick of the status quo here, and that means they're fed up not only with the (ruling Workers Party) but also with all parties.”

Many demonstrators have said they had learned their mass actions could prompt a quick government response.

They also said they were looking ahead to other high-profile events they could use to speak out, including this month's visit by Pope Francis, the World Cup, a presidential election a few months later and the Rio Olympics.