Chaos in Sao Paulo and Rio, as protestors take to the streets 35 days ahead of the Cup
Two of Brazil's major cities which will be hosting matches of the World Cup in 35 days time, were in chaos on Thursday because of protests from the Landless Peasants and Homeless Workers in Sao Paulo and a bus drivers' strike in Rio do Janeiro.
There were other transport stoppages in cities such as Belo Horizonte, (the third largest), in Florianopolis to the south and Belem to the north, both state capitals while street sweepers blocked the heart of Fortaleza.
The protests can be termed as a rehearsal of what can be expected between 12 June and 13 July as anticipated by social organizations that are condemning the billions invested in stadiums for the Cup while the country lacks basic services.
Federal Police, food industry workers among others have promised strikes and demonstrations during the month long event which is expected to attract over 600.000 tourist from overseas.
A similar situation to that a year ago during the Confederation Cup when hundreds of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets to demand better education, health care and transport services, and protests the lavish expenditure.
In Sao Paulo an estimated 1.500 families of Landless Peasants and Homeless Workers organized four different demonstrations simultaneously and later occupied the headquarters of some of Brazil's largest public works corporations.
This is the beginning of the campaign World Cup without the people: I'm again protesting in the streets', said Guilherme Boulos the coordinator of the marches. We are going to hold weekly marches to protest the abuse and unpopular measures implemented under the excuse of the World Cup”.
The target of the marches on Thursday were the corporations that benefited from the construction of stadiums, such as Arena Corinthians, which will host the matches to be played in Sao Paulo.
The protests took place a few hours before the arrival of President Dilma Rousseff to the Corinthians Arena, but then calmed when the Brazilian leader agreed to talk with the landless and homeless representatives about government housing plans.
In Rio do Janeiro on the other hand chaos was caused by the surprise bus drivers' 24-hour strike demanding higher salaries which left tens of thousands condemned to walk back home. The bus drivers ignored the agreement reached by the union leaders with the local government and private companies.
The few buses that dared circulate were stoned while pickets at the parking lots blocked all activities. In total 345 buses were damaged according to police sources. The metro and trains had to reinforce services to satisfy the overflowing demand.
On Thursday also Amnesty International launched a world campaign in support of the right to free expression and to peaceful demonstrations during the World Cup.
AI said it was collecting signatures in twenty countries in support of a document to be presented to the Brazilian government requesting that demonstrations during the World Cup are not exposed to violent repression by police or special forces.