High inflation, slower growth, street protests over the increase in bus fares smacked full on at an ill-humored Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff during the opening ceremony of the Confederations Cup in Brasília when she was booed down three times and simply had to declare the event open, instead of making a prepared speech.
The crowd of almost 70,000 fans at Mané Garrincha Stadium in Brasília repeatedly showed their disapproval at the opening Brazil-Japan match when President Rousseff’s name was read out by FIFA president Joseph Blatter during the speech to officially inaugurate the tournament.
“Brazilian football fans, where is the respect and fair play, please more respect?” Blatter said to no avail, rather the contrary.
According to Brazilian analysts it was the finishing touch for an irritating week full of disappointments for President Rousseff and her team, flooded by criticisms regarding high inflation, meager growth, an increasing dollar and thousands in the streets of the country’s major cities to protest an 8% increase in public transport fares.
The Rousseff administration reaction so far has been to blame the opposition for what they claim are “chaos salesmen” and “pessimism preachers”, which also included the media that was blamed for part of this “informative terrorism” and helping create an ‘unreal situation’ about the Brazilian economy.
The government’s view is that inflation is going to fall, unemployment will remain low and growth will be greater this year and thus ignores or brushes aside the signals of dissatisfaction in certain sectors of the Brazilian population in leading cities, São Paulo and Rio do Janeiro.
In these cities spontaneous protests against the increase in bus fares, some of which turned violent with bus-torching, vandalism against public and private property and clashes with riot police that reacted with tear gas and rubber bullets, promise to continue.
There are no apparent political influences behind the protests, just simply organized through the social networks of angry citizens with events.
The latest public opinion polls show President Rousseff’s popularity losing several points fueled by an overall pessimism about the Brazilian economy performance, inflation and concerns that billions of dollars of public money spent on World Cup and Olympics projects could be better invested in much needed upgrading of essential public services.
This was also palpable outside the Mané Garrincha stadium which had a solid police protection as homeless militants, indigenous peoples demanding return of their lands, women’s rights groups among others, tried to interfere with the event and were involved in skirmishes with riot forces.
Finally Brazilian analysts argue that in effect the economic situation of Brazil is not that tragic, but President Rousseff’s bid for re-election next year is anticipating it won’t be an easy competition, (almost one horse race) as was forecasted.
There is dissatisfaction with economic policy, anger in the streets, and even when some of the targets could be achieved (lower inflation and stronger economic growth) the international scenario is showing that the bonanza decade is coming to an end, and so could the humor of Brazilians.
Police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse around 3,000 protestors from outside Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã stadium ahead of the Confederations Cup match between Italy and Mexico on Sunday.
The demonstrators were attempting to enter the stadium in protest at the vast sums of money spent on the organization of the tournament and next year’s World Cup, which Brazil is also hosting.
The demonstrators, mainly young, and many of whom wore the Brazilian flag, left the scene quickly after being prevented from accessing the freshly renovated arena.
Police said there were 3,000 protestors, but that their number could have swelled to 5,000 as people continued to arrive at the scene. The demonstrators started to mingle with supporters arriving for the Group A clash between Mexico and Italy, which was the first game in the tournament to be staged in Rio.
A strong police line reinforced with riot police, initially held protestors back – only letting through supporters who displayed tickets – before charging.
Prior to Saturday’s opening game between Brazil and Japan in Brasília, police broke up a similar protest with tear gas and rubber bullets, resulting in 33 injuries and 20 arrests.
The start of the competition has been marked by protests over the huge cost of preparations to host the World Cup, which is expected to reach 15 billion Euros.
Meanwhile, Brazilian media lashed out on Sunday at what they saw as an excessive police response to protesters ahead of Saturday’s match in Brasília.
“Fiesta inside (the stadium) … war outside,” was how Jornal de Brasília daily headlined its coverage in juxtaposing that of the match with that of the protests.
The latest actions follow on a week of protests in São Paulo and Rio do Janeiro when demonstrators took to the streets against an increase in bus fares and the nerve-racking transport system in both cities, hindered by insufficient infrastructure to address the growing traffic.
Police reaction and handling of the bus-fare situation was considered by the media as ‘outrageous’ with hundreds of arrests, injured and at intervals firing tear gas and rubber bullets indiscriminately against protestors.
There was ample coverage on tape, pictures and cellular phones of unmarked police officers acting with unnecessary violence, or ‘lack or training’ for such situations, which also included nine journalist injured, some of them beaten and one with a rubber bullet fired at short range straight to her face.