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Friday 15 December 2017

Riots in Brazil cast fresh shadow over World Cup

A resident gestures during a protest against the death of a man in Pavao-Pavaozinho slum, in the Copacabana neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro
A resident gestures during a protest against the death of a man in Pavao-Pavaozinho slum, in the Copacabana neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro

Donna Bowater

Concerns over World Cup security were growing yesterday after violent protests broke out again in Rio de Janeiro with less than two months to go before the football tournament begins.

Residents from a slum set barricades of tyres ablaze and threw bottles at police just a mile away from the Copacabana beachfront, where hundreds of thousands are expected to stay during the Fifa event in June.

The England team is due to be based in the nearby beach neighbourhood of Sao Conrado.

A 27-year-old man died after being shot in the head and a 12-year-old boy was also reportedly hit in the crossfire during violence against police, whom the protesters blame for the death of Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, a well-known dancer.

He was found dead yesterday in a nursery school in the Pavao-Pavaozinho favela (slum), where residents believed he was killed by police who confused him for a drug trafficker.

Mr Pereira was understood to have been  visiting his four-year-old daughter. His mother, Maria de Fatima, told local newspapers that his body was covered in boot marks. The latest trouble began in the early evening in the slum, which sits above the tourist centres of Copacabana and Ipanema, before quickly spreading.

Witnesses described panic in hotels when shooting broke out at about 6pm on Tuesday. Main roads and Ipanema metro station were closed after home-made bombs were thrown, shots fired and cars set ablaze.

"It was horrifying," Marcos Quintes, an advertising executive who was in Copacabana, said. "I stayed in the lobby of the Hotel Miramar where staff shouted at tourists not to leave."

The latest unrest followed street protests last year over poor living conditions and was yet another embarrassment for Brazil as it prepares to stage the tournament in June and the Olympic Games in 2016.

"The community of Pavao-Pavaozinho came down from the favela and showed the state that they can do much more during the World Cup," one protester said.


Police have recently stepped up efforts to clear favelas of violent criminals. Although a huge slum 'pacification' programme was started six years ago to improve security in the city, the gangs have been fighting back.

Pavao-Pavaozinho favela, home to about 10,000 people, was one of dozens of communities in Rio to be occupied by special police in an attempt to take back territory controlled by drug gangs. Thirty-seven pacifying police units have been installed in favelas since the initiative started in 2008, and have been credited with reducing the murder rate.

Irish Independent

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