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Indigenous groups clash with police in Brasilia

No calm before the party starts. An Indigenous protester in traditional headdress runs with his bow during a protest against the FIFA World Cup outside the National Stadium in Brasilia, Brazil, yesterday. Protesters squared off against Brazilian police mounted on horses in the nation’s capital, just outside a new soccer stadium that will host World Cup matches.
Demonstrators protest against legislation to shrink size of reserves outside W. Cup stadium

BRASILIA — Indigenous protesters in traditional headdress squared off yesterday against Brazilian police mounted on horses in the nation’s capital, just outside a new soccer stadium that will host World Cup matches.

In clashes broadcast live on television, riot police fired tear gas into small pockets of protesters, some of whom picked up gas canisters and threw them back at officers, along with stones and pieces of wood. Some of the demonstrators were armed with bows and arrows, and fired a few arrows at mounted police.

Police said they had no information on any injuries during the rally, which saw about 300 protesters gather in Brasilia’s main area. The clashes ended by nightfall.

Indigenous activists were there to complain about legislation before Congress that threatens to shrink the size of some reserves for indigenous groups. They were joined by demonstrators rallying against Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup.

Many Brazilians are angered about the billions being spent on the tournament, saying the money should have gone to improving Brazil’s woeful public services.

Other protests

Brazil has seen almost daily protests in the weeks leading up to the World Cup.

Last year, huge anti-government protests took over streets in dozens of cities during the Confederations Cup, which is international soccer’s warm-up tournament for its premier event, the World Cup.

Recent protests have been far smaller than those seen last year, when a total of one million people took to the streets across Brazil on a single night.

About 500 teachers peacefully rallied on a main avenue yesterday in Sao Paulo, the region’s largest city, and a bus drivers’ strike snarled traffic in Salvador, the country’s third largest metropolis.

The striking drivers’ demands include a 12 percent salary hike and reduced working hours.

With the World Cup less than three weeks away, Brazil has been rocked by strikes by workers from many sectors and regions.

Last month, Salvador saw a strike by military police. The city of around three million is hosting six World Cup matches, beginning with Spain versus the Netherlands on June 13.

Another northern city, Recife, was affected by a three-day police strike earlier in May that resulted in looting and prompted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to deploy troops to the area.

On Monday, the Brazilian national soccer squad was jeered by protesters as it departed from a Rio de Janeiro hotel toward its training camp in Teresópolis, about 75 kilometres from the beach-side city, TV images showed.

Demonstrators including teachers waved banners criticizing the tournament, pasting the team’s bus with stickers that call for money to be spent on education rather than stadiums.

Brazil is spending about US$11 billion to stage the World Cup from June 12 to July 13, with preparations marred by cost overruns and scheduling delays as it builds or refurbishes 12 arenas for the tournament.

Meanwhile, a member of Brazil’s World Cup organizing committee sparked controversy yesteray by telling protesters angry over the tournament budget that the money had already been “spent or stolen.”

“I want the World Cup to go off as well as possible,” said Joana Havelange. “I’m not going to fight against it, as however much was spent, stolen, already has been,” she said on her Instagram page.

Havelange, is the daughter of the powerful former head of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), Ricardo Teixeira.

Herald staff with Télam, online media

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