Protesters have taken to the streets of Brazil's major cities to voice their dissatisfaction with the money spent on the World Cup. The unrest comes less than a month before the football tournament's first match.
Demonstrators choked the main thoroughfares of Brazil's largest cities on Thursday, with police estimates putting the number of protesters at 10,000 nationwide.
In Sao Paulo, 5,000 members of the Homeless Workers' Movement blocked one of the city's main streets with burning tires. They then marched to Corinthians Arena, which will host the World Cup's opening match between Croatia and Brazil on June 12th. The two main streets in Rio de Janeiro were also blocked by demonstrations.
Meanwhile, protesters stormed the headquarters of Terracap in the national capital, Brasilia. Terracap manages the city's $630-million stadium (459 million euros), Brazil's most expensive. Protests also gripped the cities of Belo Horizonte, Manaus, and Porto Alegre.
In the northeastern city of Recife, young people took advantage of a police strike to loot stores .
Many Brazilians have expressed frustration at the $11 billion (8.01 billion euros) that their government has spent to host the World Cup. They say that the money could have been better spent on fixing inadequacies in health care, education, and public transport systems.
"We thought it [the World Cup] would benefit the people but it's not turned out that way and that is why people are unhappy," Pedro Amarildo, 50, told the AFP news agency.
But former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who lobbied for the World Cup to be held in Brazil, has criticized the protests.
"The attacks against this event are becoming ever more sectarian and irrational," Lula told the Spanish daily El Pais, drawing a connection between the protests and Brazil's general elections scheduled for October.
Concerns about stability
The latest unrest has raised concern about whether or not Brazil is politically stable enough to successfully host the World Cup.
The federal police are considering a nationwide strike during the Cup. They are responsible for border security and immigration, critical functions as some 600,000 foreign nationals are expected to attend the tournament.
Last year, protesters staged mass demonstrations against the Confederations Cup, a warmup for the World Cup. President Dilma Rousseff was eventually forced to publicly address the protesters' demands.
slk/jr (AFP, Reuters)