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Violent protests spark U-turn on transport fares

June 19th, 2013

Protestors in Brasilia: Photo: Agencia Brasil

Rises in public transport fares in São Paulo and Rio de Janiero that sparked nationwide protests have been cancelled following talks between city and state governments.

The scope of the protests that at times have been marked by violence and looting has widened to include the cost of the the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup football tournaments, as well a lack of investment in health, education, basic sanitation and other infrastructure.

Corruption among public officials such as judges and congressmen, who regularly vote themselves hefty pay increases on top of salaries beyond the wildest dreams of poor and even well-paid middle class Brazilians has also become a target for protestors’ anger.

Social media sites have been crackling with chatter and the exchange of information about the demonstrations.

One graphic shared on Facebook showed a congressman picks up more than 25 times the monthly salary of a fireman. Another listed the names of 200 congressmen said to be in favour of a constitutional amendment aimed at limiting their immunity from prosecution.

Brazilian football great Ronaldo, a World Cup winner in 2002, became a target for satirists and cartoonists, after reportedly saying “you can’t have a World Cup with hospitals” during a recorded broadcast.

Some Brazilian fans risked the wrath of FIFA President Sepp Blatter holding up placards protesting at corruption at the Confederations Cup match between Brazil and Mexico on Wednesday in Fortaleza in the northeast of the country, where Brazil ran out 2-0 winners. Political protests at matches are against FIFA rules.

Demonstrations started last week after the price of a single journey ticket in São Paulo was increased on June 2 from R$3 ($1.38) to R$3.20 ($1.47).

Though São Paulo and Rio have now followed the lead of other cities in cancelling the rises, demonstrations have continued with main highways leading in and out of São Paulo and a bridge connecting Rio de Janeiro with Niteroi among the routes being blocked by protestors.

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Brazilian Spring? Transport, World Cup cost protests gather momentum

June 18th, 2013

Protestors occupy the rooftops of Congress in Brasilia. Photos: Agencia Brasil

A wave of protests sweeping across Brazil over increased transport fares and the cost of the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup tournaments has reached the rooftops of Congress in the capital Brasilia.

On Monday, police reportedly fired tear gas as they tried to disperse protestors in the south east city of Belo Horizonte. Demonstrations also took place in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Belem.

While police pledged to refrain from using tear gas and rubber bullets in a protest involving a reported 65,000 people in São Paulo, unless property was being threatened, social media sites have been full of images and cartoons critical of their use by police in previous demonstrations.

Some images have even depicted calls for a general strike.

Though football is close to a religion in Brazil - a country that has won the World Cup five times - many people are unhappy that billions of dollars have been spent on building or modernising new stadiums, while swathes of the population go without infrastructure, access to medical treatment or basic sanitation.

Protestors express their anger in English in Brasilia

Protestors express their anger in English.

One municipality close to Belem in northern Brazil saw a record 1,210 admissions per 100,000 people for diarrhea in 2012,  figures from an NGO that monitors basic sanitation in Brazil show. It compares with a low of 1.4 cases per 100,000 people in Taubaté, São Paulo state a year earlier.

For some people the fare increases appear to be the last straw.

One taxi driver in Salvador, northeast Brazil previously took me by surprise, saying that he wouldn’t go to matches at next year’s World Cup even if he were able to get tickets in disgust at the amount of money that should be used to help the public being diverted to fund the tournament.

Though previously said quietly by people through gritted teeth it’s an attitude that now appears to be being expressed more openly and vociferously. Protesters are just as angry about grinding inequality and rampant corruption among officials.

Judges and politicians frequently vote to award themselves enormous pay increases on top of salaries already beyond the wildest dreams of most poor and even well-paid middle class people in Brazil.

At the weekend, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and FIFA boss Sepp Blatter were both booed by the crowd at the Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasilia as they declared the dress rehearsal tournament for next year’s World Cup open.

A protestor is dragged away in Brasilia

On Monday, President Dilma, who herself was imprisoned and tortured during Brazil’s dictatorship, said peaceful protest is a legitimate part of democracy.

Demonstrations started last week after the price of a single journey ticket in São Paulo was increased on June 2 from R$3 ($1.38) to R$3.20 ($1.47).

The protests, which turned violent, started to take in the cost of the Confederations Cup currently taking place in Brazil and the World Cup tournament, which kicks off in just under a year from now.

A number of journalists were among those injured. Earlier pictures showed one young woman reporter, after being hit around the eye by a rubber bullet and another a TV cameraman being sprayed with police pepper gas.

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Indigenous museum to remain at World Cup final stadium site

January 28th, 2013

Chief Carlos Tukano receives proposals from Rio state officials last week. Photo: Rio government

A former museum of indigenous culture close to the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, where the FIFA World Cup Final is due to played next year will not now be demolished as planned.

Rio de Janeiro state governor Sergio Cabral says that while the building will not be knocked down, the indigenous community living there will have to leave the site.

Without giving precise details, Cabral said in conjuction with the city government there are plans restore the building, dating from 1862.

Authorities want to pay rent assistance to the indigenous community living there, but are yet to reach agreement with chief Carlos Tukano who is only willing negotiate personally with the governor, media reports say.

On Saturday, a court issued an injunction preventing the demolition of the former museum.

The governor’s announcement coincides with a deadline for indigenous groups to leave the property.

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Rio de Janeiro snatches ‘unparalled opportunity’

October 2nd, 2009

President Lula with Pele in background celebrate Rio's Olympic victory

President Lula with world football legend Pele in background celebrate Rio's Olympic Victory. Photo: Agencia Brasil

“If I die now my life will have been worth it,” said a tearful Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva moments after Rio de Janeiro was chosen to host the 2016 Olympic Games. “This is a victory for 190 million souls.”

In Rio itself the party started early with many who were given the day off heading to the beach in hopeful anticipation that the city might snatch the games from bookies favourite Chicago.

Among those celebrating wildly in Rio as International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge pulled the city’s name from the envelope were workers at Brazil’s National Development Bank (BNDES), which will help fund the games that are expected to cost in the region of $10 billion.

“For others it will just be another Olympics, for us it will be an unparalled opportunity,” the Brazilian president told IOC members in an impassioned speech before they cast votes in reference to much needed jobs and improvements to infrastructure the games are likely to bring before, during and after the event.

For Rio there may be an unparalled party especially with a public holiday approaching next weekend.

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Brazil stamps World Cup passport

September 6th, 2009

Brazil’s World Cup carnaval can start early this week, with a game against Chile in Salvador, after the country’s national team sealed a place in next year’s finals competition with a 3-1 away victory against Argentina in Rosario on Saturday night.

In a plodding match, punctuated by two excellent goals, Brazil turned in a workmanlike performance against a misfiring Argentina side, whose coach Diego Maradona wore a worried frown for most of the match.

Argentina looked the more dangerous in the first few minutes, but once Luisão was left in oceans of space to nod in a downward header on 23 minutes, Brazil hardly looked troubled.

Seven minutes later, Argentine goalkeeper Anjúdar could only parry a shot to the feet of Luis Fabiano, who made no mistake.

After the interval, the game appeared to be petering out in Brazil’s favour, until on 65 minutes, Dátatolo unleashed a left-foot exocet into the top right hand corner from nigh-on 30 yards, leaving the normally very solid Brazilian keeper Júlio César with no chance.

Argentina’s response briefly lifted the atmoshere to boiling point, but this was extinguished two minutes later when Kaká threaded the ball through the Argentine defence to Luis Fabiano, who, as he fell away to the right, chipped the ball diagonally over the rapidly advancing Anjúdar into an empty net.

The finish was reminiscent of Michael Owen’s ‘wonder goal’ for England in the 1998 World Cup second round, also against Argentina.

In a league of ten-teams from which four qualify and a fifth faces a play-off, the result leaves fourth-placed Argentina on 22 points, sweating on their qualification with Ecuador and Colombia breathing down their necks 2 points behind.

Tricky away matches follow against third-placed Paraguay (27pts) and Uruguay (18pts) in seventh spot, who could still snatch a place in South Africa next year by winning their last three games.

Brazilian media were quick to celebrate the victory against their team’s fiercist rival. “Good to win, even better to win in Argentina,” said one TV presenter. “As a player Maradona was god, as a coach he’s mortal,” cried the Folha de São Paulo newspaper.

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Amazon to stage first World Cup Finals match

May 31st, 2009

mapaula, flickr

mapaula, flickr

The first-ever FIFA World Cup Finals match will be played in the Amazon region of Brazil, after the sport’s governing body announced the cities to host the tournament in 2014.

Wild celebrations were seen across Brazil on Sunday in the twelve chosen cities.

Porto Alegre, Curitiba (South); São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte (South-East); Natal, Recife, Fortaleza and Salvador (North-East); Cuiabá and Brasília (Centre-West); and Manaus were selected to host matches.

In 1950, when Brazil staged the first post World War II finals, Rio de Janiero,  Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Recife, Porto Alegre and  São Paulo played host to 13 teams and 22 matches.

Brazil’s World Cup qualifying matches have been staged outside big cities in recent years because of criticism of the performances of highly-paid players, many of whom play for European clubs.

Though there were no real surprises, the city of Manuas in Amazonia beat off competition from rival Belém.

Manuas is said to have drawn on support from Japanese electronics multinational Sony whose Brazilian base is in the city. Sony has been a regular World Cup sponsor or partner in FIFA’s parlance.

Hot and Humid

Unsurprisingly for a city of 1.7 million people in Brazil’s Amazon region, average temperatures of between 24 and 31 degrees, added to high humidity levels for teams drawn to play in Manaus will be big factors.

It’s believed FIFA had intended to name only 10 hosting cities, until the intervention of Brazilian Football Association President Ricardo Texeira.

Five cities Belém, Campo Grande, Florianópolis, Goiânia and Rio Branco missed out on the chance to host the competition in which 31 countries are expected to line up alongside Brazil, once they have negotiated tricky qualifying stages to get through to the final 64 matches.

The tournament’s opening match will be in São Paulo with the final scheduled to played at the Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro, scene of the final match of 1950, which saw the Jules Rimet trophy snatched from under the Brazilian team’s noses by 11 minutes from the end by Uruguay.

In this football-crazy country, that 2-1 loss first sparked a period of national mourning on the scale of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and then self-examination that was to last eight years until 1958, when Brazil clinched the first of five victories 5-2 against hosts Sweden in Stockholm.

The Brazilian government has been preparing a number of mini-economic growth packages to stage the 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup, putting the emphasis on transport and other infrastructure projects. Cuiabá, Natal and Recife will get new stadia.

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Ronaldo targets World Cup recall after title victory

May 3rd, 2009

Photo: Ronaldo has put the smile back on the Corinthians club. Photo: nikefutebol, flickr

Photo: Ronaldo has put the smile back on the Corinthians club. Photo: nikefutebol, flickr

Ronaldo says he still hopes to play in next year’s World Cup Finals in South Africa and is ready to return to Brazil’s national football squad, should coach Dunga pick up the phone.

“It’s not my choice, but I’m a Brazilian soldier waiting in reserve, in case the commander-in-chief calls,” Ronaldo told TV variety show host Faustão, when asked whether his goal is to play in the 2010 World Cup, after his Corinthians team clinched the São Paulo state championship.

A 1-1 draw with rivals Santos was enough to complete Ronaldo’s fairy-tale comeback to Brazilian football, as Corinthians lifted the oversized trophy in front of their own fans at Pacaembu stadium, São Paulo on Sunday.

Santos took the lead from a Kleber penalty on 28 minutes, narrowing the deficit from the first leg of the the tie, which Corinthians won 3-1.

Five minutes later, André Santos steadied Corinthians’ fans nerves, shooting past Santos keeper Fábio Costa, after an exchange of passes with Dentinho.

As the trophy slipped away, Santos’ fate was sealed in 83rd minute with the expulsion of Domingos for a second yellow card offence, the final whistle sparking a cacophony of fireworks and car horns all around the city of São Paulo.

The result marks not only a happy return for World Cup winner Ronaldo, 32, after a year out from the game with another career-threatening injury, but also for Corinthians, a team that suffered relegation from the separate First Division championship at the end of 2007.

Corinthians bounced back to the top division at the end of last year and then took a chance on the ageing former superstar - a move that paid dividends, once Ronaldo returned from injury to notch eight goals in eleven appearances.

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Ronaldo close to crowning comeback after double strike

April 26th, 2009

Ronaldo, once the forgotten man of Brazilian football, was the star of the first leg of a fiercely contested São Paulo state championship final on Sunday, scoring twice against rivals Santos.

Photo: nikefutebol, flickr

Photo: nikefutebol, flickr

His second goal, an exquisite left-foot chip over Santos goalkeeper Fabio Costa in the 76th minute gave his Corinthians team a 3-1 advantage and moved his dream of winning silverware in his comeback season a step closer.

Earlier, in the caldron of Santos’ Vila Belmiro stadium, Ronaldo killed a through ball dropping over his right shoulder, before running on to fire home a low left-foot shot in the 26th minute.

Chicão had put Corinthians ahead in the 11th minute from a free-kick from just outside the 18-yard box.
Triguinho pulled a goal back in the 61st minute for Santos.

Now in the twilight of an illustrious career that will be remembered for two goals in Brazil’s 2002 World Cup triumph over Germany, Ronaldo has notched eight goals in ten appearances for Corinthians, including a late equalising header against bitter rivals Palmeiras.

“The most important thing was the result,” said a beaming Ronaldo at the final whistle.

After a year out of the game, a clearly heavier Ronaldo, not for the first time has overcome potentially career-threatening injury and his team now go into the home leg of the final at São Paulo’s Pacembu stadium next Sunday as overwhelming favourites.

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Expectation weighs heavily on Ronaldo

February 3rd, 2009

Ronaldo, remember him? No, not the sultry Portuguese superstar with the slinky skills and diamond earring so coveted by Real Madrid who struts around Old Trafford for Manchester United like some kind of permanently bronzed peacock.

Photo:chicolang2009

Photo:nikefutebol

We are of course talking about the  former three-time FIFA World Player of the Year whose name was omitted from the team-sheet in the 1998 World Cup Final only to be pencilled in again a few minutes before kick-off, an incident and defeat many Brazilians blame on shirt sponsor Nike.

After another career-threatening injury, at the end of a two-year spell at AC Milan, these days Ronaldo, complete with black curly hair, is plying his trade at São Paulo club Corinthians.

Well, plying his trade is one way to put it.

Since his unveiling to Corinthians fans in December, Ronaldo, now 32, has yet to kick a ball in anger, after rupturing a knee for the third time in his career before leaving Milan.

He did though recently do a bit of TV match commentary as part of a sponsorship deal, if that counts.

But ask a São Paulo taxi driver or indeed most anybody and they will tell you that Corinthians, which took its name from the English amateur club founded in the 19th century, have pulled off something of a marketing masterstroke.

Just as it was suggested when England’s David Beckham joined Real Madrid that he was there to sell replica team shirts, so too is the man and [woman] in the street saying that about Ronaldo.

After a calamitous first-ever relegation to Brazil’s Serie ‘B’ at the end of 2007, Corinthians bounced back as champions before Christmas.

After shunning Flamengo, the Rio de Janeiro-based club he supported as a boy, Ronaldo’s switch to Corinthians has put the spotlight well and truly on the São Paulo-based club - just as the club’s directors had hoped, even though much of the talk has been about the player’s weight.

During his time on the sidelines, a clearly happy, but oversized Ronaldo was pictured in celebrity magazines cavorting aboard a motor cruiser.

On the pitch, little is now expected of Brazil’s once most-feared player who could be ready to play again by the end of February, after a year out of the game.

After such a long layoff and debilitating injury, the big question that hangs over Ronaldo is whether he still has the desire, something he is said to have lacked in recent years.

When he finally does cross the white line, until May Ronaldo will have to content himself with playing in the São Paulo state championship, – a form of competition alien to watchers of European football.

Nevertheless, if somehow Ronaldo can shed some extra pounds and show glimpses of the player he once was, you can maybe forget the World Cup winner’s medal in 2002 and his status as the tournament’s highest scorer, it may well rank among his biggest achievements.

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