Brazil gets in the World Cup swing as protests quiet down

Fri Jun 13, 2014 3:16pm EDT
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By Brad Haynes

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - World Cup fever gathered steam across Brazil on Friday as fans streamed to a second day of matches and violent protests subsided, although a last-minute scramble to get some host cities ready kept organizers on edge.

Brazil's opening victory over Croatia unleashed celebrations late into Thursday night, with fireworks and car horns echoing for hours in major cities as fans got into the spirit of the first World Cup on Brazilian soil since 1950.

Shopkeepers in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte on Friday cleaned up storefronts that they had boarded up for opening day, when protests against the costs and alleged corruption behind the tournament broke into scattered clashes with police.

Most of Brazil's 12 host cities saw anti-World Cup demonstrations ahead of the opener, drawing anywhere from dozens to more than 1,000 protesters, but the protests dropped off sharply early on Friday.

About 100,000 police are patrolling host cities during the monthlong tournament. On Thursday, police responded with teargas, stun grenades and rubber bullets against demonstrations in some cities.

Amnesty International said police deserved a "yellow card" after they "brutally repressed peaceful protesters" in Sao Paulo on Thursday. Protest organizers in some cities are pledging marches later on Friday and over the weekend.

Brazilians are still frustrated about the $11 billion spent to host the Cup in a country with glaring inequalities that struggles to fund schools, hospitals and other basic services.

President Dilma Rousseff was subjected to jeers and derisive chants at Brazil's opening game, a clear sign of the continued frustration. But many fans also want protesters to let them enjoy the party.   Continued...

Brazilian fans celebrate after Brazil scored against Croatia during their 2014 World Cup opening match, at a FIFA event in Manaus June 12 2014.  REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko