Brazilian police strike weeks before World Cup begins

Riot police in Brazil

Police industrial action in Brazil raises safety fears as anti-World Cup protests escalate

LAST UPDATED AT 12:23 ON Wed 21 May 2014

Thousands of Brazilian police in 14 cities will strike over pay today, as street protests continue over the £10bn cost of hosting the World Cup, less than three weeks before the tournament kicks off.

The one-day strike by civil police affects several host cities including Sao Paolo, where the opening game of the tournament takes place on 12 June, and Rio de Janeiro. Officers are demanding a pay increase of up to 80 per cent.

Military and federal police, who deal with public order and more serious offences, say they also have grievances but will hold off strike action until after the World Cup, the BBC reports.

"There is no climate for a general [police] strike now in Rio de Janeiro," Roberto Alzir, Brazil's 'big events secretary', told the BBC.

The strike adds to the sense of unease stoked by waves of anti-World Cup protests. Last week 10,000 people took to the streets in six host cities to protest against the cost of staging matches, Sky News reports.

"What we want are more rights for workers to have access to housing and to show the effects the Cup had brought to the poor," Guilherme Boulos, head of the Homeless Workers' Movement explained.

Small demonstrations against a hike in transport fares spiralled into violent clashes between police and protesters, during which tyres were set alight and police fired rubber bullets and tear gas.

According to Amnesty International, the protests stem from poor public services, government corruption and forced evictions in communities surrounding some of the stadiums.

"Hosting the competition has cost the country more than it should, and in return is giving back less than it should," writes Tim Vickery of the BBC.

About 20,000 security personnel, including troops and military police, will be on duty during the tournament amid concerns over serious violence in Rio's more deprived neighbourhoods. · 

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