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100,000 expected to protest before Brazil match

  • Article by: TALES AZZONI
  • AP Sports Writer
  • June 25, 2013 - 5:15 PM

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil — Demanding better public services and angered by World Cup costs, about 100,000 people are expected at a protest Wednesday before Brazil plays Uruguay in the Confederations Cup semifinals.

Local officials have declared a holiday in Belo Horizonte and authorities say they are expecting confrontations with the demonstrators.

Belo Horizonte has had some of the most violent clashes between police and protesters since the country was swept by a wave of demonstrations calling for better education, transport and health services.

There were no major protests in the city on Tuesday, but groups closed three main roads demanding that public officials pay more attention to them.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter will be in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday. Football's governing body said that security has been increased because of the protests, but it wasn't immediately known if any changes were expected in Belo Horizonte because of Blatter's presence.

"FIFA is in constant contact with local authorities and has full trust in the security arrangement that have been made," FIFA said in a statement.

State officials said they will increase to nearly 6,000 the number of law enforcement personnel deployed to try to keep the protests peaceful near the stadium and across the city of nearly 3 million people in south-central Brazil.

The state official in charge of security, Romulo de Carvalho Ferraz, told Brazilian media that 1,500 army troops will be on standby, but he said they were not expected to be needed. Ferraz said the troops had already been on standby before the other two matches in the city.

"I'm in favor of the protests," Brazil striker Fred said Tuesday. "The people deserve better. But it has to be done without violence and without vandalism. Hopefully the demonstrations will be peaceful tomorrow, without confrontations with the police."

Protesters have filled cities across the country to air a wide spectrum of grievances, including the high cost of hosting next year's World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

There have been many violent protests before Confederations Cup matches, including in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Fortaleza.

On Saturday, police estimated that about 60,000 demonstrators gathered in a central square in Belo Horizonte before heading toward the Mineirao Stadium ahead of the match between Japan and Mexico. Riot police fired rubber bullets and used gas bombs and pepper spray to keep the protesters from advancing near the venue.

The government is projecting that $13.3 billion will be spent on stadiums, airport renovations and other projects for the World Cup, with an estimated $3.5 billion on the 12 venues.

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