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Maracana stadium scene of clashes between Rio police, protesters

By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com   |   July 1, 2013 at 10:44 AM   |   Comments

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July 1 (UPI) -- It ought to have been a moment of joy and celebration for Brazil, which defeated Spain for the Confederations Cup, 3-0 at home.

But the demonstrations that have gone on for weeks continued Sunday outside Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, devolving into violence between 5,000 anti-government protesters and riot police.

The two sides clashed first about 30 minutes before kickoff, with police countering Molotov cocktails, rocks and fireworks with stun grenades and tear gas.

At least one policeman was injured in the fracas, but the force of 6,000 managed to keep the demonstrators away from the stadium perimeter.

While Sunday's protests were small in comparison to others in recent days, public opinion polls show much of the country sympathizes with them.

President Dilma Rousseff's approval rating has tanked in the past three weeks, dropping to 30 percent from 57 percent earlier this month. More than 80 percent said they supported the protests and 65 percent said the demonstrations had resulted in positive changes.

Rousseff stayed away from the finale of the Cup, perhaps recalling the sour reception she received when she appeared with FIFA president Sepp Blatter at the tournament opening.

The protests began in response to a hike in public transportation fares, but has grown to encompass government corruption, poor education and health care, and the exorbitant costs of hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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