Thursday 22 February 2018

Protest clashes near Brazil stadium

Military police guard the foreign ministry building during an anti-government protest in downtown Brasilia, Brazil (AP)
Military police guard the foreign ministry building during an anti-government protest in downtown Brasilia, Brazil (AP)
A policemen walks away from demonstrators after trying to negotiate peace near the Mineirao stadium (AP)
Protesters set cars and stores on fire during a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (AP)

Brazilian protesters and police have clashed near a stadium hosting a Confederations Cup football match, as thousands of demonstrators trying to march on the site were met by tear gas and rubber bullets.

Brazil's senate voted to increase penalties for those found guilty of corruption, responding to a key demand made by protesters across the country.

Anti-government protesters in part angered by the billions spent in World Cup preparations picked up tear gas canisters and lobbed them back at police, along with a shower of rocks. A dense fog of the acrid gas enveloped the mass of protesters, who were about a mile (2km) away from the stadium where Brazil was playing Uruguay in a semifinal match of the warm-up tournament for next year's World Cup.

Police set up a 2km (one mile) perimeter around the stadium, normal procedure for international tournaments. Mounted police and riot units maintained another security line about 1km from the stadium.

"The protesters started this when they tried to break through our outer barrier," said police Captain Flavio Almeida. "We had no choice but to respond."

Two protesters were hurt, including a 21-year-old man who fell from an overpass and was in critical condition.

By the time the match ended in a 2-1 Brazil victory, most of the protesters had dispersed. In another area of Belo Horizonte, a group of masked young men shattered the windows of car showroom and set the shop on fire.

About 50,000 protesters had earlier massed in a central plaza in Belo Horizonte. "We don't need the World Cup," said Leonardo Fabri, a 19-year-old protester. "We need education, we need better health services, a more humane police."

It is the latest protest to turn violent as Latin America's biggest country has been hit by nationwide protests since June 17. Elsewhere in Brazil the situation was mostly calm, in part because Brazilian lawmakers were taking action to meet protesters' demands.

The wave of protests that hit Brazil began as opposition to transportation fare hikes, then expanded to a laundry list of causes including anger at high taxes, poor services and high World Cup spending, before coalescing around the issue of rampant government corruption. It has become the largest eruption of public demonstrations Brazil has seen in two decades.

Press Association

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