Brazil police, protesters clash anew during Confed Cup




SOUNDBITE 1 protester (man), (Portuguese, 19 sec):

"The Brazilian people have been chained for 500 years. The youth doesn't want to be the slaves of the Congress or the Senate or economic groups anymore. This Cup has been the trigger."

SOUNDBITE 2 protester (man), (English, 4 sec):

"No World Cup."

- A car on fire

- VAR of riot police

- VAR of protesters hurling stones

- VAR of police firing tear gas

- VAR of people being arrested




Brazil police, protesters clash anew during Confed Cup

FORTALEZA, Brazil, June 27, 2013 (AFP) - Brazilian police clashed with protesters ahead of a Confederations Cup semi-final Thursday as President Dilma Rousseff's allies backed her plans for a plebiscite on political reform aimed at defusing public anger.

A wave of nationwide mass demonstrations, which began more than two weeks ago against a background of anemic economic growth and rising inflation, have coincided with the Confederations Cup -- a dry run for the 2014 World Cup.

Protesters are clamoring for better public services and tougher penalties against corrupt politicians. They are also angry about the $15 billion Brasilia spent to host the two high-profile football tournaments.

The demonstrations have tapered off in terms of size -- far from the 1.2 million people who flooded the streets of Brazil's major cities a week ago -- but those demanding change are still turning out.

About 5,000 young demonstrators staged a peaceful march in Fortaleza to the Castelao stadium where Spain edged Italy 7-6 on penalties to book a place in Sunday's final against Brazil in Rio.

"We are not against (world's football governing body) FIFA or the World Cup, but we are against the huge investments made (for the event). Public health, education, roads are in a sorry state and politicians prefer to invest in football," said protester Teo Sucupira.

Police clashed with a small group of hard-core protesters who hurled stones and tried to remove metal barriers set up to block access to the arena, AFP correspondents reported. Some set tires ablaze.

Police said they arrested 72 people. At least one demonstrator and three police officers were injured in the confrontation, the G1 news website reported.

In Brasilia, Rousseff met with leaders of parties making up her ruling leftist coalition.

After the meeting, Education Minister Aloizio Mercadante reported "a major convergence" on the planned non-binding plebiscite that would set new rules on election campaign finance and reassess the current proportional representation voting system.

"I would say that the meeting produces a major convergence and solidarity with respect to the agenda, the pacts and the objectives," he added, stressing that Congress, the only body empowered to convene a plebiscite, "will have the final word."

The president was to meet with opposition lawmakers Friday.

"The government believes that the people must be heard," said Mercadante.

But opposition parties have made it clear they think it is up to Congress to craft a political reform which the electorate can then approve or reject in a referendum.

Meanwhile feeling the heat from the streets, Congress has been rushing through a series of bills that had been kept on hold for years.

The Senate backed tougher penalties on corruption. It also scrapped a proposed constitutional amendment that sought to curb the investigative powers of independent public prosecutors.

The Supreme Court meanwhile ordered the detention of lawmaker Natan Donadon, who was sentenced to 13 years in jail in 2010 for embezzlement -- the first such move in 25 years.

In other concessions to the protesters, the House of Deputies backed a bill that would allocate 75 percent of oil royalties to education and 25 percent to health.

The bill now goes to the Senate, but some of the articles could face a presidential veto as Rousseff said she wanted 100 percent of the revenues to go to education.

The government also announced plans to create 35,000 jobs in the public health sector, open to Brazilian doctors, but also foreigners if necessary. Some 12,000 medical experts are also to be trained in priority sectors.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the more than two weeks of social turmoil rose to five Thursday, when a 21-year-old man died in hospital a day after he fell from an overpass during a demonstration in Belo Horizonte.